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Since MoJo’s May/June 1993 cover story, “Beach Bummer,” which alleged that most sunscreens do not prevent malignant melanoma skin cancer, and may actually promote the potentially fatal cancer, two scientific reports on the subject have been published. The first, in the October 14 New England Journal of Medicine, described an Australian study in which sunscreen users showed a significant reduction in solar keratoses, a risk factor for skin cancer. Sunscreen did not prevent cancer; it simply reduced the likelihood of developing one of ten risk factors.

The U.S. media overstated the study’s findings and neglected to report that the sunscreen used in the study was nothing like what most Americans apply. Until recently, most sunscreens available in the U.S. blocked just one type of ultraviolet light–UV-B, the rays that cause sunburn. Deeper-penetrating UV-A rays, on the other hand, are barely blocked at all. Even “broad-spectrum” sunscreens only block about one-third of UV-A. But the sunscreen used in the study blocked 94 percent of it.

MoJo’s article focused on the theory that UV-A might be the culprit in the melanoma epidemic of the last twenty years. At the time of the article, there was no animal model to prove this. But last July, as reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratories induced melanoma in fish. “In this animal model,” the researchers wrote, “90 percent to 95 percent of melanoma may be attributed to UV-A. . . . It is reasonable to extend this conclusion to humans. Sunscreens effective in the UV-B region would not protect against melanoma induction by sunlight.”

Sunscreens that largely block UV-A include Photoplex and Shade UVA Guard.

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TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

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