checking a skin mole

Sunscreen Reduces Melanoma Risk by 40% in Young People

A world-first study has found that Australians aged 18-40 years who were regular users of sunscreen in childhood reduced their risk of developing melanoma by 40 percent, compared to those who rarely used sunscreen.

mother putting sunscreen on child

Sunscreen Use and Melanoma Risk Among Young Australian Adults

Watts C, Drummond M, Goumas C, Schmid H, Armstrong B, Aitken J, Jenkins M, Giles G, Hopper J, Mann G, Cust A

JAMA Dermatol. Published online July 18, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2018.1774

This is the first study to examine the association between sunscreen use with melanoma risk in young people under 40 years. The study analysed data collected from nearly 1700 people who participated in the Australian Melanoma Family Study.  The control group for this study was recruited from the electoral roll

The key question the study was trying to answer was Does regular sunscreen use reduce the risk of melanoma among young adults?

The study’s findings provided evidence that regular sunscreen use is significantly associated with reduced risk of cutaneous melanoma among young adults and identified several characteristics associated with less sunscreen use.


Melanoma is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australian men aged 25-49 years and second most common cancer in women aged 25-49 years, after breast cancer. Approximately two in three Australians will be diagnosed with melanoma or other types of skin cancer by the time they are 70 years old.

"Our study shows that sunscreen use in childhood and adulthood was protective against melanoma in young people 18-40 years old, with their risk reduced by 35 to 40 percent for regular sunscreen users compared to people who rarely used it," said lead researcher Associate Professor Anne Cust, who heads the Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Research group at the University of Sydney's School of Public Health and Melanoma Institute Australia.

"The association of sun exposure and sunburn with melanoma risk, particularly in childhood, is well established and this study showed that regularly using sunscreen was protective against the harmful effects of sun exposure.

"Regular users of sunscreen were more likely to be female, younger, of British or northern European ancestry, and have higher education levels, lighter skin pigmentation, and a strong history of blistering sunburn.

"People were less likely to use sunscreen if they were male, older, less educated, or had skin that was darker or more resistant to sunburn.

"Despite sunscreen being widely available and recommended for sun protection, optimising the use of sunscreens remains a challenge and controversies continue to surround its use.

"This study confirms that sunscreen is an effective form of sun protection and reduces the risk of developing melanoma as a young adult. Sunscreen should be applied regularly during childhood and throughout adulthood whenever the UV Index is 3 or above, to reduce risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers.”

Our comment: 

This robust study confirms what we’ve been saying for years!  Wear sunscreen!  Every Day!  As well as preventing melanoma and other skin cancers, it prevents premature ageing from sun damage and keeps your skin looking peachy.

Daily sunscreen should be worn by everyone, every day, regardless of your skin type, age, or ethnicity.  It’s never too late to start, so try incorporating your sunscreen into your daily skin care routine now. 

When outside for extended periods, always reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours. 

What to look for in a great daily sunscreen:

SPF 30 or higher

Broad spectrum

PA+++ or higher (a measure of the UVA protection)

Feels good on the skin, dries matte and isn’t greasy

Small ingredient list – common allergies to sunscreen include allergies to preservatives and fragrances as well as allergies to the sunscreen agent benzophenone.

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