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August 2005

Sunscreen, Sun Protection, and Our Many Failures

Arch Dermatol. 2005;141(8):1025-1027. doi:10.1001/archderm.141.8.1025

In this month’s ARCHIVES, we have 2 excellent prospective studies of sun-exposure behavior and sunscreen use. The study by Dupuy et al1 examines the effect of sunscreen labeling in the real-world setting of French vacation sites. These investigators studied vacationers who volunteered to be randomly assigned to 3 different sunscreen groups for a week during their holiday. Participants were given sun protection factor (SPF) 40 sunscreen labeled either basic protection or high protection, but were blinded as to the actual SPF. A third group got SPF 12 labeled “basic protection.” The end result of this study was that there was no difference in sunscreen use in the SPF 40 group, suggesting that the high protection label did not lead to more intentional UV exposure or less sunscreen use than the same SPF 40 sunscreen labeled basic protection. These authors ultimately concluded that, while sunscreens are not the method of choice for sun protection (avoidance and clothing being preferred), the policy of recommending a high-SPF sunscreen is a sound one. These findings are reassuring and tend to confirm the American Academy of Dermatology’s current policy of recommending high-SPF sunscreens.

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