A study conducted in the Department of Medicine at the University of British Columbia reveals that adopting a regular sunscreen routine in childhood can reduce the risk of developing skin cancer in the future.
"Sunscreen has always been an important part of an overall sun-safety regime to protect the skin and reduce the number of sunburns, especially for children," said dermatologist Jason K. Rivers, M.D., professor of dermatology, Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia. "This study demonstrates that sunscreen plays a much more important role than just protecting against sunburn. By preventing nevi development, sunscreen decreases the risk of developing skin cancer in the future."
The experimental group consisted of Caucasian schoolchildren - first-graders, ages 6 to 7 years old, and fourth-graders, ages 9 to 10 years old - who were monitored for three years.
The number of nevi, or moles, a person has is known to be a strong predictor of the future risk of developing skin cancer, particularly melanoma, the most deadly form of the disease. Therefore the study concentrated on this aspect and prior to the study each child was examined by a physician. The number of moles at least 2 mm or larger were counted on specific sites.
The experimental group was randomly divided into two groups one of which was made the control i.e. their parents were not given any sunscreen or advice for its application. The parents of the other group received a regular supply of sunscreen with SPF 30 and advice on its use for children, before being exposed to the sun for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Follow up questionnaires were regularly distributed and filled. After three years the two groups of children were re-examined and results were compared. They revealed that children who received sunscreen protection regularly had lower number of nevi on the trunk and upper and lower limbs area. "Not only did the children in the sunscreen group develop less nevi, it is of some significance that there was a reduction in the number of new nevi on areas of the body which do not receive regular sun exposure," said Dr. Rivers. "Since melanoma can develop anywhere on the body, including on areas that are not exposed to the sun, these results may indicate that sunscreen usage has an overall positive affect on all parts of the body, thereby reducing the risk of skin cancer."
Age wise too the fourth graders showed a better protection in nevi development than first graders. Another advantage of the study was the inculcation of a positive habit of sunscreen.
Source: American Academy of Dermatology