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Use sun lotion not spray for the ‘best protection against skin cancer’, experts say

The i 14/12/2020 Paul Gallagher
a woman taking a selfie in front of a crowd: Everyone should use sunscreen after the age of six months (Photo: Dmitry Feoktistov\TASS/Getty) © Provided by The i Everyone should use sunscreen after the age of six months (Photo: Dmitry Feoktistov\TASS/Getty)

Everyone older than six months of age should use sunscreen to protect against skin cancer, according to a group of experts who have reviewed the latest evidence and guidelines

The Canadian dermatologists said sunscreens with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher are recommended in cream or lotion format, but spray-on sunscreens are not recommended as they can be dispersed, are flammable and their effects if inhaled are unknown.

Babies should avoid the sun altogether and wear protective clothing if they are exposed. Sunscreen is not recommended for use before age 6 months because of the potential for systemic absorption of sunscreen ingredients, the experts said.

Lack of evidence

The review, published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), also said that there is a lack of evidence for the effectiveness of sunscreen in people with darker skin. Current evidence is mostly limited to white people, who have a higher rate of skin cancers.

a man sitting on a bench: Sunbathers in St James Park, London (Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA) © Provided by The i Sunbathers in St James Park, London (Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The authors wrote: “Sunscreen is only one part of a comprehensive photoprotection strategy.

“It is important to counsel patients regarding behaviours for avoiding ultraviolet radiation, including the use of wide-brimmed hats, eye protection (e.g., “wrap-around” sunglasses with ultraviolet radiation protection) and seeking shade when the ultraviolet index is above 3 (usually 11 am-3 pm, April to September in Canada).”

Ultraviolet radiation

Co-author Dr Megan Sander, a dermatologist at the University of Calgary, said: “Exposure to ultraviolet radiation is directly harmful and has been associated with the development of skin cancers, which are common in Canada. High-quality evidence has shown that sunscreen reduces the risk of developing both melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer.”

Most skin cancers develop because of long-term sun exposure. Sunscreen reduces the risk of developing skin cancer by blocking solar radiation through chemical or physical sunscreen filters such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.

Around 15,400 people are diagnosed with melanoma in the UK each year and incidence has risen faster than any other common cancer. Over the last decade, the number of people diagnosed with melanoma in the UK has increased by almost half making melanoma now the 5th most common cancer in the UK.

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