A world-first study led by the University of Sydney has found that Australians aged 18-40 years who were regular users of sunscreen in childhood reduced their risk of developing melanoma by 40%, compared to those who rarely used sunscreen. The study was published today in JAMA Dermatology, this is the first study to examine the association between sunscreen use with melanoma risk in young people under 40 years.

Melanoma

Melanoma is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australian men aged 25-49 years and the second most common cancer in women aged 25-49 years, after breast cancer. Approximately two in three Australians will be diagnosed with melanoma or other types of skin cancer by the time they are 70 years old.

The study analyzed data collected from nearly 1700 people who participated in the Australian Melanoma Family Study. Our study shows that sunscreen use in childhood and adulthood was protective against melanoma in young people 18-40 years old, with their risk reduced by 35 to 405 for regular sunscreen users compared to people who rarely used it.

Sun Exposure

The association of sun exposure and sunburn with melanoma risk, particularly in childhood, is well established and this study showed that regularly using sunscreen was protective against the harmful effects of sun exposure.

Regular users of sunscreen were more likely to be female, younger, of British or northern European ancestry, and have higher education levels, lighter skin pigmentation, and a strong history of blistering sunburn.

Use Of Sunscreens

People were less likely to use sunscreen if they were male, older, less educated, or had skin that was darker or more resistant to sunburn. Despite sunscreen being widely available and recommended for sun protection, optimizing the use of sunscreens remains a challenge and controversies continue to surround its use.

This study confirms that sunscreen is an effective form of sun protection and reduces the risk of developing melanoma as a young adult. Sunscreen should be applied regularly during childhood and throughout adulthood whenever the UV Index is 3 or above, to reduce the risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers. Some population subgroups such as people with sun-sensitive skin or with many moles might get a stronger benefit from using sunscreen.

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