Sunscreen and skin cancer

Sunscreen has been shown to protect against skin cancer, but it was not established whether it can protect against skin ageing.

Sunscreen has been shown to protect against skin cancer (Photograph: iStock)
Sunscreen has been shown to protect against skin cancer (Photograph: iStock)

Moreover, the assumption that antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, may protect against ageing is unconfirmed.

Researchers in Australia tested whether regular use of sunscreen compared with discretionary use or use of beta-carotene supplements retarded skin ageing compared with placebo, as measured by degree of photoageing.

A total of 903 male and female subjects aged <55 years were assigned to four study groups: daily use of broad-spectrum SPF 15+ sunscreen and 30mg of oral beta-carotene; daily use of sunscreen and oral placebo, discretionary use of sunscreen and 30mg of beta-carotene, and discretionary use of sunscreen and oral placebo.

Skin ageing from baseline to the end of the trial was 24% less in the daily sunscreen group than in the discretionary group. However, beta-carotene had no overall effect on skin ageing in the study population.

Hughes MCB, Williams GM, Baker P et al. Ann Intern Med 2013; 158: 781-90

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