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Br J Cancer. 2000 November; 83(9): 1243–1248.
PMCID: PMC2363574

Sunscreen use and intentional exposure to ultraviolet A and B radiation: a double blind randomized trial using personal dosimeters


A previous randomized trial found that sunscreen use could extend intentional sun exposure, thereby possibly increasing the risk of cutaneous melanoma. In a similarly designed trial, we examined the effect of the use of sunscreens having different sun protection factor (SPF) on actual exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation. In June 1998, 58 European participants 18–24 years old were randomized to receive a SPF 10 or 30 sunscreens and were asked to complete daily records of their sun exposure during their summer holidays of whom 44 utilized a personal UVA and UVB dosimeter in a standard way during their sunbathing sessions. The median daily sunbathing duration was 2.4 hours in the SPF 10 group and 3.0 hours in the SPF 30 group (P = 0.054). The increase in daily sunbathing duration was paralleled by an increase in daily UVB exposure, but not by changes in UVA or UVB accumulated over all sunbathing sessions, or in daily UVA exposure. Of all participants, those who used the SPF 30 sunscreen and had no sunburn spent the highest number of hours in sunbathing activities. Differences between the two SPF groups in total number of sunbathing hours, daily sunbathing duration, and daily UVB exposure were largest among participants without sunburn during holidays. Among those with sunburn, the differences between the two groups tended to reduce. In conclusion, sunscreens used during sunbathing tended to increase the duration of exposures to doses of ultraviolet radiation below the sunburn threshold. © 2000 Cancer Research Campaign

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