The consistent use of sunscreen in infancy and childhood can dramatically reduce the incidence of malignant melanoma in adulthood, researchers at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute have proven in a study published in the latest issue of the scientific journal Pigment Cell and Melanoma.
Although the use of sunscreen use has increased in recent decades, since exposure to the ultraviolet light has been proven to be strongly implicated in melanoma initiation, the rise in the incidences of melanoma over these same decades have “led some to question whether sunscreen is effective in preventing melanoma caused by ultraviolet light,” lead author of the study Dr. John L. VandeBerg said. According to Dr. Vandeberg, it has even been suggested that sunscreen enables people to receive more UV exposure without becoming sunburned.
Texas Biomed researchers now come to refute these assumptions, by testing gray short-tailed opossums, a small marsupial from South American, with an over-the-counter facial lotion containing SPF15 sunscreen for its ability to prevent UV-induced melanoma. As a result, they found that applying the sunscreen to infant opossums led to a 10-fold reduction in pre-melanotic lesions, in comparison to infant opossums receiving lotion that did not contain sunscreen. This difference in the development of lesions occurred even when the applied doses of UV light were so low that they caused no sunburn or even reddening of the skin in the opossums that did not receive sunscreen.
VandeBerg thus concludes that it is “particularly important” that sunscreen is consistently used in childhood, especially in infancy, since “skin cells during growth are dividing much more rapidly than in adulthood, and it is during cell division that the cells are most susceptible to UV-induced damage.”
VandeBerg also noted that despite the fact that melanoma incidences have dramatically increased over the last years, with more than 75,000 new cases being estimated to be diagnosed this year, this increase has not been matched by the development of effective therapies for melanoma patients. In this context, researchers are concerned that sufficient advances in the reversion, suppression, or prevention of melanoma are not being made.