August 15, 2005

Sunscreen does not encourage more sunbathing

CHICAGO -- Using a strong sunscreen does not lead people to spend more time sunbathing in the belief they can do so safely, researchers said on Monday.

Study author Alain Dupuy of the Saint Louis Hospital in Paris wanted to know if the higher protection afforded by stronger sunscreens would encourage longer sun exposure by delaying the warning sign of sunburn and giving a false sense of safety.

As part of the study, sunscreen was provided for free to 367 vacationers at French seaside resorts.

The vacationers, 80 percent of whom were women, were given one of two strengths of sunscreen labeled either "high protection" or "basic protection."

The amount of time reported spent in the sun had no connection to the perceived level of protection, ranging from 13 to 15 hours a week, according to the report in the journal Archives of Dermatology.

One of four of those who used the weaker sunscreen got sunburned, compared to one in seven who used stronger sunscreen. Six were burned severely.

The study was also found out that many participants did not always use the provided suncreen and that most people still badly wanted a tan.

"One of the most chilling findings of (the study) was not the featured data concerning sunscreen use; rather, it was the self-reported intent of 96 percent of the participants to get a tan during their vacation week, and this while they were participating in a sunscreen study," said an accompanying editorial written by journal editor Dr. June Robinson and Dr. Mark Naylor of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.

"Clearly, this population views sunscreens more as tanning aids than as a means of limiting (ultra-violet light) exposure. Unfortunately, it is very clear from these and other studies that measure sun-exposure behavior that we have a long way to go to get this situation headed in the right direction," they wrote.