Are sunscreens luxury products?
Background: The incidence of skin cancers is rapidly increasing in Western countries. One of the main sun-protection measures advocated is application of sunscreen. Some studies report a failure to comply with sunscreen application guidance. One explanation is their cost. Objective: To evaluate the true cost of sunscreen in two situations: a 4-member family spending 1 week at the beach and a transplant patient respecting all the sun protection recommendations. Methods: We performed an analysis of prices of sunscreens sold via Internet drugstores in Europe and North America. Standard sunscreen application recommendations were followed. We tested the recommended amount of sunscreen to be applied (ie, 2 mg/cm^2). Results: Six hundred seven sunscreens from 17 drugstores in 7 countries were evaluated. Median price of sunscreen was $1.7 US per 10 grams. The price decreased with the size of the bottle. The median price for a family varied from $178.2 per week to $238.4 per week. The price decreased by 33% if the family wore UV-protective T-shirts and by 41% if large-volume bottles were used. The median price for a transplant patient varied from $245.3 per year to $292.3 per year. Limitations: Anti-UVA activity and topical properties were not evaluated. We tested the recommended amount (2 mg/cm^2) rather than the amount actually used (1 mg/cm^2). Conclusion: Under acute sun exposure conditions (a week at the beach), the cost of sun protection appears acceptable if sun protective clothing is worn and large-format bottles and low-cost sunscreens are used. Conversely, in a sun-sensitive population requiring year-round protection, the annual budget is relatively high and patients may require financial assistance to be compliant with sun protection guidelines.
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