Can Sunscreen prevent Skin Cancer?

Can Sunscreen prevent skin cancer? Before get to know about the answer to this question it is important for us to know what Skin cancer is and what can cause Skin Cancer?

Skin Cancer is the abnormal growth of cells (skins cells) most probably on the areas exposed to the sun frequently. But there are cases where the most common form of Skin Cancer has arrived from the area on the skin that has not much exposed in the sunlight. Skin Cancer be caused by the exposure of the skin to the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun and thus one should make sure to notice even minor changes in their and if there is any get medical assistance as soon as possible so that if it is cancer then it can be treated in an early stage. 

Now that we know what Skin cancer is and what is one of the most common reasons why skin cancer is caused let’s have a look if Sunscreen can prevent skin cancer?




What is sunscreen? Sunscreen is a type of lotion that is applied on your body especially on the skin that is exposed to the sunlight for protecting it from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun like your face, neck, hands and legs that are usually exposed.

Who should and can use sunscreen? Well, the answer to this question is everyone can and should sunscreen to protect their skin from the ultraviolet rays emitted from the sun. Anyone above the age of six months whether it be a man or a woman can use sunscreen to protect their skin from sunburns and other damages like tan and so on.

When and where should you apply sunscreen? Experts say that you should apply sunscreen every day, so that your skin is always protected from the harmful rays of the sun. And if you are out in the sun for long then you should apply sunscreen every two hours and one should apply sunscreen on rainy and cloudy days as well because even in weather conditions like those 80% of ultraviolet rays reach the earth and being exposed to it may cause damage to your skin. 

Can Sunscreen prevent Skin Cancer? Well the answer to this question is answered by ‘The American Academy of Dermatology. According to them “Use of Sunscreen can prevent Skin Cancer by protecting your skin from harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. And anyone can get skin cancer irrespective of age, gender and race.” Even though ‘The American Academy of Dermatology’ Sunscreen prevents skin cancer but there are only four prospective studies that examine or verify the role of sunscreen in preventing skin cancer and more than that there are no studies that verify the role of sunscreens with the perspective of how effective is it in preventing skin cancer. 

Well, after getting to know that sunscreen can prevent skin cancer although no one knows how effective it is, it is okay to use sunscreen as a means of protection. But is it okay to use sunscreen daily? Because the risk of skin cancer depends upon person to person, as the risk of people with lighter shade of skin are more prone to skin cancer than people with darker skin and thus JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association) raises the question that won’t the ingredients used in the sunscreen harm the skin? The four most important ingredients or products active in the sunscreen are as follows:  avobenzone, ecamsule, octocrylene, and oxybenzone (showed by the FDA – Food and Drug Administration) and these things can be harmful when they are absorbed into the bloodstream at high levels trigger the need for additional study into this matter. Also, some people may be even allergic to the oxybenzone and studies have also have found out that this particular product/material used in the sunscreen also affects the sex hormones. 

What other benefits do sunscreen have? Sunscreens have a good source to prevent to skin cancer but it also has some additional benefits like: 

  • Photosensitivity – Certain skin disorders make your skin highly sensitive to the sun and it’s rays and in such situations sunscreen proves to be an effective aid.

  • Various skin conditions – You can select sunscreen depending upon your skin type like dry skin, oily skin, sensitive skin, or allergic skin, so that the condition of your skin doesn’t worsens. 

  • And live a sun free life – Yes, live a sun free life by applying sunscreen on your body to protect it from the harmful rays of the sun including the ultra violet rays.

Other than these factors we also have to keep mind that sunscreen doesn’t decrease the risk of skin cancer as it depends on the type of skin cancer one is or can be affected with. Like Sunscreen is proven more effective in the cases of squamous cell cancer or carcinoma but in the case of Melanoma it is not (in terms of reducing the risk of being prone to skin cancer). And thus whether sunscreen prevents or reduces the risk of skin cancer depends on a lot of factors and also it brings out a fact that people with pale skin using a lot of sunscreen will get burned anyway and get skin cancer. 

We have seen the benefits of sunscreen and how it can protect you from getting skin cancer or how it at least reduces the risk of getting skin cancer but what if you don’t like using sunscreens? Then the simple way out from this is using long sleeved shirts and pants when going out, using shades to cover your eyes under the hot sun, Using hats to cover your head, using umbrellas and so on. These physical ways not only cheap but also very effective. And so if you don’t like suing sunscreen then make sure to cover at least 90% of your skin when you go out in the sun and be protected from the harmful rays of the sun including the ultraviolet rays.

Thus, let’s also have a look at which sunscreen to use when you have to go out in the sun?

Which Sunscreen to use? Well you have a lot of options to choose from and thus ‘The Skin Cancer Foundation’ believes that ‘the best sunscreen for you is the one that provides safe and effective protection, has a broad spectrum with SPF15 or higher.’ 

What is SPF? SPF stands for Sun protection factor and the number mentioned alongside the SPF tells how longer it will take to redden your skin after the application of the sunscreen. So, if you apply sunscreen with SPF30 then it will take 30 times longer time to redden your skin. And thus anything is fine above the number 15. But it is fine as long as you reapply the sunscreen every two hours irrespective of the SPF of the sunscreen.

Thus, we can conclude that there is no proper study that states the fact that sunscreen very effectively prevents skin cancer but we do have studies suggesting that it does reduces the risk of skin cancer, and so it is advisable to apply sunscreen whenever you are steeping out of the house in the hot to sun to save yourself from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun.

Ref: Does sunscreen really prevent skin cancer? - Vox

Sunscreen Prevents Cancer, Right? Well, It's Complicated. (undark.org)

Sunscreen - The Skin Cancer Foundation


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