Avoiding direct sunlight and covering up is 'best protection against skin cancer'

In collaboration with the Press Association

Covering up with thick fabrics and avoiding direct sunlight provides the best protection against skin cancer and the aging effects of the sun, experts have said. A review of sun protection strategies around the world, due to be published in the Lancet, found that these measures provide better protection than sunscreen. In particular, tightly woven garments made of denim, wool or polyester provide the best protection against UV rays, with cotton, linen and acetate clothing being of less benefit. The review also determined that wet or stretched garments and materials which have been bleached are not as effective at blocking out UV rays. Dr Stephan Lautenschlager, one of the researchers from the Triemli Hospital in Zurich who carried out the review, commented: "Wearing sun protective clothes and a hat and reducing sun exposure to a minimum should be preferred to sunscreens. "Often this solution is deemed to be unacceptable in our global, outdoor society, and sunscreens could become the predominant mode of sun protection for various societal reasons, for example healthiness of a tan, relaxation in the sun," he continued.

"Nevertheless, sunscreens should not be abused in an attempt to increase time in the sun to a maximum." The authors also said that applying liberal quantities of sunscreen is "by far the most important factor for effectiveness of the sunscreen, followed by the uniformity of application". Dr Kat Arney, Cancer Research UK's senior science information officer, said: "This study confirms what we already know. Cancer Research UK's SunSmart Campaign has always said that sunscreen is the last line of defence in protecting skin against the sun's harmful rays.

"Many people do not use sunscreen properly and do not reapply it regularly and after swimming. Some believe sunscreen is an invisible shield that will give them carte blanche to lie out in the sun all day," she added.

"Our SunSmart campaign advises people to enjoy the sun safely and that the most important thing is not to burn. You can do this by seeking shade when the sun is hottest between 11am and 3pm, and covering up with a T-shirt, hat, and sunglasses. Finally, use factor 15 plus sunscreen."