Shedding Light on Sunscreen Debate; A Difference of Opinion Has Arisen within the Medical Profession about the Correct Level of Sunblock to Use to Protect against Skin Cancer. Health Reporter HELEN RAE Explains

Article excerpt

Byline: HELEN RAE

HEALTH experts in the North East have backed new advice on the dangers of using lower-strength sunscreen this summer. In January, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) published information saying people should use creams with a minimum factor of 15.

But yesterday, in a paper published in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, a team of doctors reviewing medical treatment urged a rethink.

The specialists say the recommendation is far too low and does not reflect how lotions are actually used.

And results of the study now suggest people should apply twice the protection - by using a minimum factor of 30.

The review found factor 15 offers all-day protection only if it is applied thickly, at a thickness of 2mg/cm2.

This thickness is used by manufacturers as the standard test for sun protection factor.

However, the experts said people typically apply much less, pointing out how sunscreen quickly runs off the skin.

Marietta Evans, director of public health for South Tyneside Primary Care Trust, said she believes the Nice guidance is correct and the majority of people had enough knowledge to know if they needed to re-apply their sun cream.

She said: "In the Nice guidance it does say people should use at least sun factor 15 to protect against UVA and UVB rays and it largely talks about being in the UK.

"The majority of people are capable of using common sense and will know if they have not applied an adequate amount of sun factor as, over the years, there have been many awareness campaigns warning people about the dangers of skin cancer.

"Crucially people who have young children and babies are generally aware not to let their youngsters sunbathe without sunblock and most people are sensible." Recent figures by Cancer Research UK show that in the North East approximately 40 people aged 15-34 are diagnosed with potentiallyfatal malignant melanoma every year and in total around 400 people of all ages are told they have the deadly form of skin cancer. …