By: Ben Spencer
Wearing sun cream is not a reliable way to prevent getting skin cancer, scientists have warned.
A groundbreaking study into the way UV radiation attacks the skin has revealed that long-lasting damage is not stopped by sunscreen.
While an SPF cream can stop sunburn and the short-term effects of sunbathing, it allows enough rays through to cause potentially fatal disease in the long term.
Anyone who spends more than a short time in the sun should make sure they are covered up and should not rely on sunscreen alone, experts warned.
Scientists at Manchester University and London’s Institute of Cancer Research carried out the world’s first molecular study into the way malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is caused.
Their paper, published in the journal Nature, revealed that even highest grade SPF 50 suncream allows sufficient UV radiation through to damage the DNA in the skin’s pigment cells.
Dr Julie Sharp, of Cancer Research UK, which funded the study, said: ‘People tend to think they’re invincible once they’ve put it on and end up spending longer out in the sun, increasing their overall exposure to UV rays.
‘This research adds important evidence showing that sunscreen has a role, but that you shouldn’t just rely on this to protect your skin.’
Malignant melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, with more than 13,000 people diagnosed with the disease every year.
The scientists found that sunscreen could not stop solar radiation causing a mutation in the skin’s ‘guardian gene’ which produces proteins that protect against UV.
With the gene damaged, the skin is vulnerable to further damage from the sun and more likely to develop a tumour.
Study author Richard Marais, of Manchester University, said: ‘UV light targets the very genes protecting us from its own damaging effects, showing how dangerous this cancer-causing agent is.
‘Very importantly, this study provides proof that sunscreen does not offer complete protection from the damaging effects of UV light.’