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An Australian study finds that sunscreen is the best method to reduce the impact of skin cancer

This study compared the economic cost-effectiveness of two different intervention strategies for reducing the burden of melanoma and keratinocyte skin cancers in Queensland, Australia. The strategies compared were early intervention by daily sunscreen use to prevent skin cancer versus early detection through regular skin checks by physicians to allow early treatment. The study compared these intervention strategies with a control scenario where neither were used to prevent or manage skin cancer. The study then used models to project both the economic cost and incidence of skin cancers in Queensland for the next 30 years. This was based on data from other scientific studies on incidence of skin cancer, the effect of high and low sunscreen use and the clinical outcome and costs by using early detection measures. The study reported that daily sunscreen use would result in 1055 fewer melanomas and 16 977 fewer keratinocyte skin cancers per 100,000 people and save 38.7 million dollars in treatment costs. It was also reported that the early detection strategy would identify an additional 21 melanomas and 793 keratinocyte skin cancers per 100,000 people. However, the economic burden would result in an additional of 171.9 million dollars in treatment costs. The study concluded that daily sunscreen use would be the most effective strategy for protecting the Queensland population from skin cancers.

Authored By: 
Gordon et al
Published In: 
BMJ Open, February 2020
Literature Survey Date: 
Commentary by ARPANSA: 

The study used data from a number of different studies that used different populations and methods and then applied this to the Queensland population. Although this may affect the skin cancer projections in the model, this is likely to result in an underestimate of the economic impact due to the study population being comprised of mostly fair skinned individuals with higher risk of skin cancer. Despite this, the study still provides valuable information regarding skin cancer prevention and resulting economic benefits. Overall, the results reported by the authors support ARPANSA’s sun protection messaging and those of Cancer Council Australia to slip, slop, slap, seek and slide to prevent excessive solar UV exposure.