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14.02.20

Does sunscreen protect you from melanoma (skin cancer)?

Dermatology

The ninth ‘Rencontres Romandes de Dermatologie et Vénéréologie’, a special Romandy event on dermatology and venereology, took place on 10 May last year. One of the workshops focused on the controversy surrounding sunscreens and how effective they are at preventing melanoma. This subject is often debated within the scientific community, with some experts believing that sunscreen is imperfect and should never replace two key measures: reducing sun exposure during peak hours and wearing appropriate clothing.

What are the best ways to protect yourself from the sun?

The best way to protect yourself from the harmful health effects caused by too much sun is to minimise exposure to the sun during the hottest part of the day. It is important to avoid direct exposure to the sun when its rays are strongest, usually between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Clothing (dark, thick clothes, if possible) that shields your skin from the sun's rays is another great way to protect yourself. It offers better protection from harmful UV rays than any sunscreen on the market.

If your skin is exposed to the sun, for example on the beach in summer, make sure that your sunscreen has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher and protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Aerosol sunscreens are less popular because there are some concerns about the danger of inhaling these products during use.

How can you protect your child’s skin from the sun?

In summer, like the rest of the year, it is very important that children get outdoors for exercise and fresh air. However, keep your child out of the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the sun is at its hottest. Appropriate clothing is also recommended, for example thick, dark clothing can limit the skin’s direct exposure to the sun's rays.

No sunscreen is currently capable of blocking 100% of the sun's rays. Sunscreen for children is better suited to their needs but is not fundamentally different to adult sunscreens. Children can therefore use adult sunscreen from time to time. Children under the age of two should always be kept out of direct strong sunlight!

How can you tell if you have skin cancer?

Sun exposure can have harmful effects. Carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. It occurs locally and develops a crust or scab that does not heal. In most cases, carcinoma is treated as an outpatient surgical procedure and is not life-threatening.

Melanoma, on the other hand, is an aggressive type of skin cancer that is very dangerous and can kill. Look out for moles with an Asymmetrical shape, irregular Borders, mixture of Colours, and where the Diameter and Enlargement or Elevation have increased over the past few months (this is the ABCDE rule).  

There are different types of melanoma, and doctors use a dermatoscope to refine their diagnosis. If in doubt, please seek advice from your doctor or dermatologist: he or she will be able to provide the help and information you need. 

Hôpital de La Tour services

At Hôpital de La Tour, we are proud to offer mole mapping using advanced digital technology for complex cases. Please contact our dermatologist, Dr Marc Pechère, for more information.