The sun can cause your skin to produce more melanin, but a study published online in the journal PLOS ONE found that it does not make you more prone to developing skin cancer.
“Our findings suggest that the sun exposure we get may not be all that different from the sun’s impact on other health conditions,” said the study’s senior author, Dr. Daniel M. Schutz, a professor of dermatology and ophthalmology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
“We think the sun might be responsible for some of the risk associated with melanoma.”
Melanoma, the most common form of skin cancer, is the most lethal form of melanoma, and it is estimated that the disease is responsible for approximately 10,000 deaths each year.
It is also a leading cause of blindness.
“We can expect to see a decrease in melanoma over time, but we are still a long way from eliminating it completely,” Schutz said.
Schutz and his colleagues compared the skin health of 1,865 Caucasian participants ages 20 to 79 and 9,086 non-Hispanic white participants ages 65 and older.
They compared skin health scores of participants to those of 6,858 participants in the general population and 1,918 non-white participants.
“The results showed that sun exposure is not associated with a higher risk of melanomas in the elderly,” the researchers wrote.
“Our results suggest that a combination of lifestyle factors, including sun exposure, are important in the prevention of melanocoma.”
Schutz said the findings are consistent with the idea that skin health plays a role in skin cancer risk.
“While the sun can be responsible of some of melanin’s harmful effects, there is no direct evidence that sunlight directly causes melanoma,” he said.
“So there is a lot of potential for sun protection against melanoma as a potential modifiable risk factor.”
Schultz said that while he believes that sunscreen and other skin-care products that are designed to keep the skin healthy are important for the prevention and treatment of skin conditions like melanoma and wrinkles, there may be other factors that may play a role.
“I would say it’s probably more of a combination,” he explained.
“It’s really hard to tease out which factors may be a bigger risk factor for melanoma than others.”
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