Regular Sunscreen Use Could Reduce Melanoma Rates by a Third

If all Australians regularly applied sunscreen, the burden of melanoma could be reduced by up to 34 per cent by 2031, according to a study by the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

In a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, researchers predicted the likely impact of regular sunscreen use on melanoma rates. They found that 28,071 fewer melanomas would be diagnosed in Australia over the next 13 years if everyone frequently wore sunscreen.

UV radiation from sunlight is the main environmental cause of melanoma, responsible for between 63 per cent and 90 per cent of all melanoma cases. Broad-spectrum sunscreens provide protection from the sun’s harmful rays and, if applied daily, can reduce the risk of developing melanoma.

Professor David Whiteman, head of QIMR Berghofer’s Cancer Control Group and leader of the research team, said melanoma rates are increasing in most populations around the world and so it makes sense to look at potential public health interventions.

The study used existing data from QIMR Berghofer’s Nambour skin cancer prevention trial to calculate the potential impact of sunscreen application in seven different modelling scenarios. Researchers modelled hypothetical scenarios for the Australian population, including mandatory sunscreen application for people aged 45-65 years, for all school-age children and, in the “best case scenario”, assumed 100 per cent of the population always used sunscreen.

The study found that increased regular sunscreen use by older Australians would have the greatest overall impact on melanoma rates in the short-term, since the burden of melanoma is highest in the older population.

This only holds true, however, if it is assumed that the benefits of sunscreen use have an immediate and equal effect across all age groups. The school-age intervention led to a much more modest reduction in melanoma rates by 2031, for example, because the study only looked at benefits over a short timeframe, when melanomas actually occur later in life.

The study “cautiously” examined the possible effects of everyone wearing sunscreen from school-age to 2081 and found that it would reduce the burden of melanoma by 20 per cent, given that sun exposure in early life is an important factor in melanoma development.

Read more skin cancer research.


Regular sunscreen use could cut melanoma rates in Australia by a third. (31 January 2018.) QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. Accessed Feb 2018 at

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