Background: Solar keratoses (SKs) are among the strongest determinants of skin cancer, but little is known about the success of measures to control these common skin tumors.
Objective: To determine whether daily sunscreen application and/or beta carotene supplementation retards the rate of occurrence of SKs in adults in the medium term.
Design: Randomized controlled trial conducted between February 1992 and August 1996.
Setting: General community of the subtropical township of Nambour, Australia (latitude, 26 degrees south).
Participants: A total of 1621 adults aged 25 to 74 years. Interventions Participants were randomized to daily use of sunscreen (application of a high-protection sunscreen to their head, neck, arms, and hands every morning) or application of sunscreen at their usual discretionary rate. They were also randomly assigned to take either one 30-mg tablet of beta carotene or one placebo tablet each day.
Main outcome measure: Change in the prevalent number of SKs in the intervention group relative to change in the control group.
Results: The ratio of SK counts in 1994 relative to 1992 was lower in people randomized to daily sunscreen use (1.20; 95% confidence interval, 1.04-1.39) than in those randomized to discretionary sunscreen use (1.57; 95% confidence interval, 1.35-1.84). This 24% reduction is equivalent to the prevention of an average of 1 additional SK per person over that time. A reduction in the rate of change of SK prevalence was also seen in the sunscreen intervention group relative to the discretionary sunscreen group between 1994 and 1996, but it was not significant. No effect on the rate of change of prevalent SK counts was seen among those taking beta carotene supplements relative to those taking placebo tablets.
Conclusions: Daily application of sunscreen retarded the rate of SK acquisition among adults in a subtropical environment, while a beta carotene supplementation of 30 mg/d had no influence on the occurrence of SKs.