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Daily Sunscreen Use Does Protect from Melanoma, Study Finds
Date:12/6/2010

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Dec. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Applying sunscreen every day to the head, neck, arms and hands reduced the chances of getting melanoma by half, a new study has found.

Researchers in Australia divided more than 1,600 white adults ages 25 to 75 into two groups. One group was told to apply skin cancer daily to the head, neck, hands and arms for five years between 1992 and 1996. The other group was told to use sunscreen only as often as they wished.

Researchers then kept up with the participants for the next 10 years using annual or twice-yearly questionnaires.

During that period, 11 people who used sunscreen daily were diagnosed with melanoma compared to 22 people in the "discretionary" use group, though the result was of "borderline statistical significance," according to the study.

Sunscreen also seemed to protect from invasive melanomas, which are harder to cure than superficial melanomas because they have already spread to deeper layers of the skin.

Only three people in the daily sunscreen group developed one of these invasive melanomas compared to 11 in the discretionary sunscreen group, a 73 percent difference.

"We have known for along time that sunscreen prevents squamous and basal cell carcinomas but the data on melanoma has been a little bit confusing," said Dr. Howard Kaufman, director of the Rush University Cancer Center in Chicago and a melanoma expert who was not involved with the research. "This is a well-controlled study that took into account variables such as how much time people spent in the sun. From the data, it appears wearing sunscreen does reduce the risk of melanoma."

Participants were also given 30 mg of either the nutrient beta carotene, which has been reputed to help protect from skin cancer, or a placebo. However, the study found beta carotene had no effect.

The findings are published in the Dec. 6 issue of the Jo
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