In a first of its kind study, researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC) in Columbus prove that sunscreens with an SPF 30 rating can prevent the formation of melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer. Application of sun protection factor 30 (SPF30) sunscreen prior to exposure to ultraviolet-B (UVB) light delayed melanoma onset in a mouse model of the disease, according to data from the Ohio team of researchers. This data suggests that the mouse model can be used to identify new, more effective melanoma-preventing agents, according to principal investigator Christin Burd, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and the Department of Molecular Virology, Immunology and Medical Genetics at The OSUCCC. "Over the past 40 years, the melanoma incidence rate has consistently increased in the United States," she says. "Sunscreens are known to prevent skin from burning when exposed to UV sunlight, which is a major risk factor for melanoma. However, it has not been possible to test whether sunscreens prevent melanoma, because these are generally manufactured as cosmetics and tested in human volunteers or synthetic skin models.”
In this study, Burd and Andrea Holderbaum, a senior undergraduate biology major working in Burd's laboratory, found that if they exposed the genetically engineered mice to a single dose of UVB light one day after applying 4OHT to the skin, melanomas appeared much more rapidly, and there were many more tumors. The researchers then used the mouse model to test the ability of a number of sunscreens labeled SPF 30 to prevent melanoma. The sunscreens, which contained a range of UV-blocking agents, were applied to the mice prior to exposure to the UVB light. All the sunscreens delayed melanoma onset and reduced tumor incidence. This study was funded by Pelotonia, a grassroots cycling event based in Columbus, which has raised more than $106 million for cancer research at the university.
Burd presented her team's initial findings at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2016 on Sunday, April 17. "We have developed a mouse model that allows us to test the ability of a sunscreen to not only prevent burns but also to prevent melanoma," continued Burd. "This is a remarkable accomplishment. We hope that this model will lead to breakthroughs in melanoma prevention."