Sun protection for preventing basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers

Sanchez, G. et al. Cochrane Skin Group. Published online:  25 September 2016

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Keratinocyte cancer (BCC and cSCC of the skin) is the most commonly identified type of skin cancer. The main risk is exposure to ultraviolet radiation, which is a component of sunlight. Prevention has become an important way to manage this cancer, so it is important to assess the effectiveness of methods used to prevent keratinocyte cancer in the general population. In this review, we assessed the effects of using topical sunscreen and physical barrier methods (such as sun-protective clothing, hats, sunglasses, and the active search for shade when outdoors) compared with no specific precautionary interventions aimed at preventing the development of BCC and cSCC in adults and children.

We searched the medical literature up to May 2016 for randomised controlled trials that evaluated preventive strategies. We found only one study suitable for inclusion. This study compared the daily application of sunscreen (with or without beta-carotene, which is a precursor of vitamin A) compared with the occasional use of sunscreen (with or without beta-carotene) in the general population, without restriction by gender or age. The study was undertaken in Australia, where 1621 participants, 55% of them with fair skin, were monitored for 4.5 years for new cases of BCC or cSCC assessed by histopathology (which is a method used to detect cancerous cells under the microscope).

We found no difference between the number of people who developed BCC or cSCC in the two groups over the time period of the trial. So, there did not seem to be a difference in applying sunscreen daily compared with using it occasionally.

Read the full review here

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