Sunscreen and melanoma: is our prevention message correct?

J Am Board Fam Med. Nov-Dec 2011;24(6):735-9. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2011.06.100178.


Many primary care providers advise patients to use sunscreen as a means to reduce their risk for skin cancer, especially cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM). Despite the availability and promotion of sunscreen for decades, the incidence of CMM continues to increase in the U.S. at a rate of 3% per year. There currently is little evidence that sunscreens are protective against CMM. A number of studies suggest that the use of sunscreen does not significantly decrease the risk CMM, and may actually increase the risk of CMM and sunburns. This paper discusses current information regarding the relationship between sunscreen use and CMM, and how providers may need to alter their advice regarding sunscreen use for CMM prevention.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Melanoma / etiology
  • Melanoma / prevention & control*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Primary Health Care
  • Skin Neoplasms / etiology
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Sunburn / complications
  • Sunburn / prevention & control*
  • Sunscreening Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects


  • Sunscreening Agents