It has long been known that sunscreen is good for helping you avoid sunburns. Now, new research suggests that it can help you avoid cancer.
A recent study using mice at The Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center found that applying sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) 30 before being exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) light delayed the onset of melanoma.
Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer, according to the nonprofit Skin Cancer Foundation.
The study findings were presented at the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual meeting in New Orleans this week.
Researcher Christin Burd explains in an AACR news release that sunscreens are known to prevent burns from UV light, which is a major risk factor for melanoma. But whether sunscreens prevent melanoma had not previously been tested because sunscreen testing usually involves human volunteers or synthetic skin models.
The OSU researchers instead were able to use genetically engineered mice. Burd, an assistant professor in the OSU Department of Molecular Genetics and the Department of Molecular Virology, Immunology & Medical Genetics, explains:
“We have developed a mouse model that allows us to test the ability of a sunscreen to not only prevent burns but also to prevent melanoma. This is a remarkable accomplishment. We hope that this model will lead to breakthroughs in melanoma prevention.”
In the study, SPF 30 sunscreens were found to delay the onset of melanoma and reduce the incidence of tumors.
One limitation of the study is that the short dose of UVB light that the mice were exposed to is equivalent to the amount a person might be exposed to on a weeklong beach vacation. Burd notes that sunscreens weren’t meant to handle that much sun exposure at once.
Another limitation is that the study involved only UVB light, while sunlight contains both UVA and UVB light.
To learn more about how to best protect yourself from the dangers of both UVA and UVB light, check out “The ABCs of Sun Protection (Don’t Get Burned by SPFs).”
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