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Does sunscreen protect against skin cancer?  – “There is a lack of scientific basis.”

Does sunscreen protect against skin cancer? – “There is a lack of scientific basis.”

In summer, the sun is at its strongest between 11.00 and 15.00. Exposure to sunlight means the risk of skin cancer. According to the Radiation Safety Authority, you can protect yourself from the sun's rays by staying in the shade, covering yourself with clothes, wearing sunglasses and a hat with a brim, and applying sunscreen in places not covered by clothing.

But there are divided opinions about how much sun protection helps fight skin cancer.

– For several decades, Swedish authorities have advised the public to use sunscreen. It is known that the message reached the population through surveys and interviews. However, the incidence of malignant melanoma, which is now the fastest growing form of cancer in Sweden, has increased and this can only be explained by an increased frequency of reporting to the cancer registry as deaths from malignant melanoma are also rising, he says. Binget. Järvholm.

There are no scientific studies that have proven that sunscreen reduces the risk of skin cancer.

Bengt Järvolm is Professor at the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine at Umeå University and Chief Physician at Norrland University Hospital. It looks at how different factors affect health, including the risk of lung disease and cancer. In 2020, he was classified as one of the most influential scientists in the world, according to the classification of Stanford University in the United States (see the attached news below).

In 2024, he released a report entitled “Work-related skin cancer” in collaboration with Ole Larko, a professor of dermatology at the University of Gothenburg. The report provides an overview of skin cancer risks in people who work outdoors, with an emphasis on preventative measures.

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Link to the report at the University of Gothenburg Library.

In the report, researchers are reluctant to recommend sunscreen as a safeguard against skin cancer.

– We believe that there is not enough scientific evidence to recommend the use of sunscreen to prevent skin cancer. There is a lack of scientific studies that have proven that sunscreen reduces the risk of skin cancer, says Bengt Järvolm, who also believes that studies are very difficult to carry out because they require Large cohorts and long follow-up period.

This is how you can protect yourself from cancer

The advice for which there is evidence is to avoid being in the sun when it is strongest, and to use clothing for protection and wide-brimmed hats, because the ears are particularly vulnerable to squamous cell carcinoma, which men suffer greatly from.

You should also keep in mind that not only is the sun harmful, but sunlight causes the body to create vitamin D, which everyone needs. But it is enough to expose your hands and face to the sun for about 20 minutes a day to get enough vitamin D, according to Health Guide 1177.

But it's important to know that the risk of skin cancer is not just if you burn yourself, but it has to do with how exposed you are to the sun's ultraviolet rays. Bengt Järvolm believes this is another reason not to rely too much on sunscreen.

– He says sunscreen means you burn less, which may make you stay in the sun longer and sunbathe more and thus put yourself at greater risk of developing malignant melanoma.

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There may be risks with sunscreen

Also, the risks are not completely covered when using sunscreen.

Some substances in sunscreen penetrate the skin, and this can be measured by studying the presence of these substances or their decomposition products in the urine. The risks of this are not fully known, but it is difficult to rule out that it may have negative effects on health, says Bengt Järvolm.

But perhaps the skin becomes more resistant as it was in the sun. It has been shown that people who work a lot outdoors for a longer period of time tend to develop less skin cancer than others.

– People who work outdoors and are therefore exposed to sunlight for a long time, for example asphalt workers, have been studied and found to have a lower incidence of malignant melanoma than the average population. One explanation for its low risk could be that if you are exposed to fairly moderate solar radiation, for example in early spring in Sweden, it produces a slow tan that also increases the thickness of the skin and thus reduces the risk of malignant skin cancer. “, says Bengt Järvolm.

It is not recommended not to use sunscreen

Protecting yourself from strong sunlight is important and there are several ways to do this, but when it comes to sunscreens, there is not enough evidence that they provide adequate protection and should not be a recommendation from the authorities, according to Bengt Järvolm.

– We do not recommend not using sunscreen, but this is the individual's choice and it is best for the individual to be informed of this as stated above, he says.

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