Factor 15 sunscreen not enough to prevent cancer

If you want to protect yourself from skin cancer, factor 15 sunscreen is insufficient, warns a top doctor.

Going on holiday? Catching some sunshine on your lunchbreak? If you want to reduce the risk of skin cancer and sunburn, you should slather yourself in factor 30, says Dr Ike Iheanacho, editor of the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB).

Currently, guidance published by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) advises that people should wear a minimum of factor 15 when out in the sun.

However, people often use suncream sparingly, and researchers suggest that because of this, we typically only gett half the specified amount of suncream and millions of people could be putting themselves at risk each year.

‘Factor 15 offers all-day protection only if it is applied thickly,’ says Dr Iheanacho. ‘In reality, people using sunscreens typically apply much less than this and get no more than half, at best, of the protection indicated by the labelled SPF.’

‘Using it adequately is also costly, since whole-body coverage for a single application for an adult at 2mg/cm2 requires around 35ml of sunscreen. Applying this much at least every two hours, as NICE also recommends, would require a standard 200ml bottle to be used every two to three days,’ adds Dr Iheanacho.

But with two Britons under 35 being diagnosed with the deadliest form of skin cancer every day, and with rates of malignant melanoma tripling among those aged 15 – 34, since the late 1970s, according to Cancer Research UK, the dangers of skin cancer are very real.

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