How SPF 30 sunscreen can reduce skin cancer risk

The month of May is jam-packed with health observances, ranging from arthritis to high blood pressure awareness campaigns, but a condition that is all too easy to overlook is the risk of skin cancer. May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month sponsored by the American Academy of Dermatology, and as the month kicks off, promising new research in the field has shed light on just how pivotal sunscreen use can be in preventing skin cancer.

The effectiveness of SPF 30

A new study from Ohio State University that was presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in April 2016 shed light on the efficacy of common sun protection products. The researchers developed a mouse model that would not only test the ability of sunscreen to prevent burns, but also to prevent melanoma, a potentially life-threatening skin condition.

The mice were genetically engineered to develop melanoma after 26 weeks after the chemical 4-hydroxytamoxifen (4OHT) was applied to the skin. Next, the mice would be exposed to a single dose of UVB light (the light most dangerous to the skin), and most would develop melanoma and associated tumors in the following weeks.

With this model in place, the researchers then tested a number of sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30, which protects against UVB radiation. Amazingly, all of the SPF 30 sunscreens tested delayed the onset of melanoma and the development of tumors by a staggering 80 percent.

However, the study was not without its shortcomings - researchers were only able to test UVB rays on the mice, and not the full spectrum of UV radiation that could adversely affect a person's skin cancer risk. Ultimately, studies like these can help manufacturers better refine their products to not only block out UV rays, but provide long-term protection against skin cancer development.

The importance of regular sunscreen use

It is estimated that 1 in 5 Americans will develop some form of skin cancer in their lifetime, which makes it the most common form of cancer in America today, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Studies like the one conducted at Ohio State reveal just how damaging the sun's rays can be and the importance of regular sunscreen use when spending extended time outdoors.

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