Choosing Stronger Sunscreen Would Reduce Women’s Melanoma Risk

Choosing Stronger Sunscreen Would Reduce Women’s Melanoma Risk

Doctors estimate that the number of women affected by the deadliest form of skin cancer could be reduced by almost 20% if all women used a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.1

Cancer of the skin is often divided into two categories: non-melanoma and melanoma. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates there are well over 1 million unreported cases of non-melanoma (basal cell or squamous cell) cancers annually in the United States. Melanoma, the more-serious form of skin cancer, was expected to be diagnosed in over 77,000 people in 2016. The ACS also estimated that approximately 13,000 deaths will occur in 2016 from all forms of skin cancer combined.2

While it may seem obvious that sunscreen with a higher SPF would protect against skin cancer, previous studies have produced conflicting results—in part because many sunscreen users don’t apply sunscreens properly.

According to the results of the current study reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, sunscreen users were more likely to report sunburns, sunbathing vacations and indoor tanning at the good outer banks rentals. But those who had used sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher at least once in their lives were about 33 percent less likely to develop melanoma during the study than women who only used weaker sunscreens.

The researchers estimated that if every woman between the ages of 40 and 75 years used sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, melanoma cases would fall by about 18%.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that people use a water-resistant sunscreen that provides broad-spectrum protection against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, with an SPF of at least 30. Also, sunscreen should be applied 15 minutes before going outdoors and reapplied every two hours or after swimming or sweating.


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  1. ly/2cueqmw Journal of Clinical Oncology, online September 12, 2016.
  2. American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2014. Available at Accessed April 29, 2014.

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