Animal Model Demonstrates Pediatric Use of Sunscreen Prevents Melanoma

John L. VandeBerg PhD Southwest National Primate Research Center Texas Biomedical Research Institute San Antonio, TX Interview with:
John L. VandeBerg PhD
Southwest National Primate Research Center
Texas Biomedical Research Institute
San Antonio, TX 78245-0549

MedicalResearch: What are the main findings of this study?

Dr. VandeBerg: Despite the increasing use of sunscreen in recent decades, the incidence of melanoma continues to rise by 3% annually, leading to concerns that sunscreen may not be effective in preventing melanoma despite its efficacy in preventing sunburn.  Our results established in the laboratory opossum, which is the only natural mammalian model of UVB-induced melanoma, that SPF 15 sunscreen applied to infants prior to low dose UVB radiation leads later in life to a 10-fold reduction in pre-melanotic lesions, which are known to progress to malignant melanoma.

MedicalResearch: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. VandeBerg:  This result was not unexpected in that it confirmed the hope that sunscreens do protect against melanoma, but the result was not a foregone conclusion.

MedicalResearch: What should patients and providers take away from this report?

Dr. VandeBerg:  This report confirms the importance of consistent use of sunscreen prior to exposure to sunlight.  Because the animals used in the study were infants and because adult laboratory opossums are not susceptible to UVB-induced melanoma, the results suggest that application of sunscreen to infants and young children may be crucial to the prevention of melanoma later in life.  The importance of consistency in the use of sunscreen with infants is emphasized by the fact that the infant opossums were exposed to only nine doses of UVB which were so low that they did not cause reddening of the skin (erythema).  Therefore, even limited exposure to sunlight early in life may well increase the risk of melanoma in adulthood.

MedicalResearch: What further research do you recommend as a result of your work?

Dr. VandeBerg:  Future research should be conducted to determine

1) if sunscreens other than the one used in this study, particularly the newly marketed oral sunscreens, are effective in reducing risk of melanoma,

2) if increasing the SPF value of a sunscreen beyond SPF 15 further reduces risk of melanoma or has no added value,

3) if oral anti-oxidants alone or in combination with sunscreen reduce the risk of melanoma.


Modeling sunscreen mediated melanoma prevention in the laboratory opossum (Monodelphis domestica)
Hareesh B. Nair, Allen Ford, Edward J. Dick Jr, Ralph H. Hill Jr and John L. VandeBerg
Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research
June 2014

DOI: 10.1111/pcmr.12283



Last Updated on June 20, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD