Using Sunscreen as a Child Reduces Your Risk of Melanoma by Nearly Half

If there's one thing we will never be afraid to nag about here at Allure, it's the importance of sunscreen. Wearing your SPF daily is vital to decreasing your risk of skin cancer. Don't believe us? A new study shows wearing sunscreen when you're young reduces your risk of melanoma by almost half.

There have been tons of studies done on the effectiveness of sunscreen. Thanks to research findings, we know that when it comes to SPF the higher, the better; physical sunscreens might protect your skin better than chemical blockers; and you're better off using a full-on sunscreen rather than an SPF moisturizer. But believe it or not, until now, researchers hadn't yet examined how wearing SPF when you're young directly impacts your risk of melanoma in your 20s and 30s.

Researchers in Australia (where rates of melanoma are super high thanks to all that sun exposure), gathered sun safety data from about 1,700 participants between 2001 and 2005, including people who had been diagnosed with melanoma and those who were skin cancer free. Their findings, published in JAMA Dermatology confirmed what dermatologists have been telling us all along: SPF is associated with a decreased risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

But what researchers didn't know was exactly how much wearing sunscreen when you're young might reduce your risk of melanoma between the ages of 18 and 40. They found that regular SPF use was associated with lowered participants' risk of a melanoma diagnosis in this window by 35 to 40 percent. "The strength and consistency of our findings was somewhat surprising," Anne Cust, one of the study authors, tells Allure.

From a very young age, children start to develop moles, which are a key risk factor for melanoma throughout life.

There are two important takeaways from the study. First up, Cust tells Allure that when the researchers began the study, SPF 8 was widely used — a far cry from the minimum of SPF 30 recommended by dermatologists today — making the case that when it comes to sunscreen, a little SPF is better than nothing at all.

"I advise using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 daily," Sejal Shah, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, tells Allure. "I also advise patients that a higher SPF will offer more protection assuming the same amount is being used."

Secondly, the findings stress the importance of SPF when you're young. "Childhood is thought to be a period of increased susceptibility to the carcinogenic effects of ultraviolet radiation," Cust explains. "From a very young age, children start to develop moles, which are a key risk factor for melanoma throughout life." But that doesn't mean that you're a lost cause if you got burned as a kid — wearing SPF into adulthood is still important for lowering your risk of melanoma.

"I think many people think that once the damage is done, there is no longer a need to sun protect well in adulthood," Shari Marchbein, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, tells Allure. "However, we know that sun damage is cumulative and that appropriately applying (and reapplying) sunscreen can help prevent precancerous lesions, skin cancers, and sun damage including wrinkles and sun spots."

Well, there you have it, folks. There's no doubt about it: Wearing sunscreen regularly will seriously decrease your risk of melanoma.

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