Sunscreens are highly effective in protecting the skin against cancer, new research reveals.
Researchers from Queensland University of Technology Brisbane in Australia found that sunscreens can provide 100 percent protection against all kinds of skin cancer.
Lead researcher Dr Elke Hacker said that sunscreen helps in eliminating the risk of skin cancers like BCC (basal cell carcinoma), SCC (squamous cell carcinoma) and malignant melanoma. She also added that sunscreen safeguarded a superhero gene called p53 that helps prevent cancer.
"As soon as our skin becomes sun damaged, the p53 gene goes to work repairing that damage and thereby preventing skin cancer occurring," Dr Hacker said, in a news release.
"But over time if skin is burnt regularly the p53 gene mutates and can no longer do the job it was intended for - it no longer repairs sun damaged skin and without this protection skin cancers are far more likely to occur."
The study included 57 people. Researchers analysed the risks of UV-induced skin damage and the role of sunscreen in reducing the risks.
The participants were exposed to the sun, both with and without sunscreen application.
Researchers found that sunscreen helped prevent damage to DNA, for almost one day. "What we found was that, after 24 hours where the sunscreen had been applied, there were no DNA changes to the skin and no impact on the p53 gene," Dr Hacker said.
She added that their study succeeded in providing more solid evidence to prove that sunscreen helped avoid molecular changes to the skin caused by UV exposure. "When there are changes in the molecular structure it can enhance skin cancer development," she said.
Using her findings, Dr Hacker is planning to develop new treatment methods that will help repair the damages caused by sun exposure.
The study has been reported in the journal Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research.
According to the American Cancer Society, exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation, through spending more time under the sun in the beach, living in a sunny area or engaging in activities like sunbathing and water sports, increases the risk of developing skin cancer. Apart from that people with more number of sunburns, sun damaged skin like liver spots, actinic keratosis and solar elastosis, are at a greater risk of developing skin cancer.
The Skin Cancer Foundation said that sunscreen with SPF 15 (sun protection factor) prevents reddening for almost five hours or longer and protects against UVB rays. They said that broad-spectrum sunscreens can protect the skin against UVA and UVB rays.
Previous studies have shown many other benefits of using sunscreen. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that sunscreen slowed skin ageing and reduced cancer risk.
However, sunscreens are not totally free from concerns. Health experts at the American Cancer Society reported that an ingredient used in sunscreens - titanium dioxide can be harmful. They reported that titanium dioxide, when used in dry powder form can be carcinogenic and toxic. They said that the nano-sized particles in the sunscreen can penetrate into the body and blood stream and pose health risks.