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The wrinkle-busting case for wearing sunscreen—every day

June 5, 2013

    Hanna Jaquith, Daily Briefing

    Researchers have identified a cheap, easy way to prevent wrinkles:  sunscreen. The catch? You must wear it every day.

    In a study published on Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers divided 903 Australian adults younger than age 55 into two groups. One group was told to apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 each day. The sunscreen had to cover all skin that was exposed to the sun, and participants had to reapply the lotion after swimming or exercising. The other group was told to apply sunscreen as they normally would.

    After four-and-a-half years, researchers found that 77% of participants in the daily sunscreen group were using it at least three to four days a week, compared with 33% of the participants in the other group.

    Skin exams performed at the beginning and the end of the study revealed that diligent sunscreen appliers had 24% less visible aging, based on measures of skin coarseness, wrinkling, and patchy pigmentation.

    The improved skin isn't just about beauty. Lead study author and Queensland Institute of Medical Research scientist Adèle Green told the Wall Street Journal that the findings have "double significance" since the reduced skin damage from ultraviolet rays also signal a lower risk of melanoma.

    The research is the first to uncover hard evidence that sunscreen can protect the appearance of skin, according to the New York Times. Dermatologists are optimistic that if the threat of cancer did not convince young sunbathers to apply sunscreen, perhaps vanity will.

    "It has been a source of frustration for us that for some sections of the community, the sun-safe message does not seem to be getting through," Green told USA Today, adding, "We now know that protecting yourself from skin cancer by using sunscreen has the added bonus of keeping you looking young."

    On the Advisory Board blogs

    • Care Transformation Center Blog: Bonnie Jin profiles a health network that reduced Medicare readmissions to 1.62% by employing veteran medics as transition coaches.
    • Cardiovascular Rounds: Jeffrey Rakover explains how Boston Children's Hospital uses instances of clinical variation to inform changes to its care pathways.
    • Care Transformation Center Blog: Cabell Jonas and Yulan Egan offer three tips for simplifying care for medically-complex children.

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