Melanoma accounts for only about 5 percent of skin cancers but it causes most skin-cancer deaths, according to background information in the study. In the United States, nearly 69,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma annually and 8,600 die.
Dermatologists have long recommended sunscreen to prevent sunburn as well as basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, which are more common types of skin cancer than melanoma, Kaufman said.
Prior research has also shown that exposure to ultraviolet rays is strongly linked to melanoma. Yet most studies on the effect of sunscreen for melanoma prevention have had problems with methodology or have been inconclusive, according to the study authors.
In the new study, participants were asked to fill out annual or twice-yearly questionnaires that asked about their time spent outdoors, their sunscreen use and previous history of skin cancer.
While no one study can offer definitive proof of a benefit, Dr. Adele Green, lead study author and acting director and professor of epidemiology at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, said the findings do offer compelling evidence that people should wear sunscreen to ward off melanoma.
"When people are fair-skinned and are exposed to intense sunlight in summer or holidays in sunny places, it is important for adults to use sunscreen regularly along with other standard sun protection measures like avoiding midday sun and use of protective clothing," Greene said.
Participants who were in the daily sunscreen group were more likely to continue to use sunscreen regularly than those in the discretionary group during the 10 years after the trial ended.
During the trial, researchers provided them with a broad-spectrum SPF 16 sunscreen. Those in the daily sunscreen group were less likely develop a melanoma anywhere on their bodies, not j
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