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F15 sunscreen 'won't protect against cancer'

Medical journal argues that Nice guidance is inadequate, and warns GPs to be on the lookout for malignant melanoma

People are being exposed to an unnecessary risk of skin cancer because use of a minimum factor 15 sunscreen, as officially advised, provides inadequate protection, a leading medical journal says today.

The Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB) says the sunscreen protection factor recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) is far too low and not based on how people actually use the creams. It says factor 30 sunscreen is necessary because people typically apply much less cream than is recommended by the manufacturers and do not reapply it as often as they should – after swimming or excessive sweating, for example.

The high cost of sunscreens also restricts their use, making the higher factor 30 versions more economical.

The Medical Defence Union, which insures doctors, has warned GPs to be on the lookout for malignant melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. It said it had been told of 134 cases over the past five years in which patients with the disease took legal action against their doctors, mostly as a result of delayed or failed diagnosis.