The skin cancer jab doesn’t mean you can stop wearing sunscreen |

The skin cancer jab doesn’t mean you can stop wearing sunscreen

“Imagine if you could rub a cream on your breasts to prevent breast cancer,” Holly Thaggard, whose friend developed skin cancer in her early 30s, says. “We would do it in a heartbeat, wouldn’t we? Then why, when there’s a cream that can be rubbed all over our skin to prevent cancer, do we not apply SPF every single day?”

I know you’ve heard the sun safe message before – I’ve certainly written about it every year of my beauty editor career. But even I was stopped in my tracks when Holly, who has gone on to become the founder of the cool-girl sunscreen brand Supergoop!, made this impassioned declaration over dinner.

She’s right, of course. We would do absolutely anything to prevent breast cancer. But our attitude to sunscreen is unfathomably slapdash at best, negligible at worst. In fact, a recent survey revealed that only 22% of the UK apply SPF daily, while only half wear SPF when it’s sunny.

Pretty shocking, no? It feels like we’re just one step away from being whiplashed back to the ‘70s where people’s limbs were basted in baby oil. So I had mixed feelings when news broke this morning about a world-first jab to potentially stop skin cancer.


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The skin cancer jab: What we know so far

The new mRNA cancer jab for skin cancer (also called melanoma) would be customised for each person as a tumour sample is first removed and its DNA sequenced. The jab would then trigger your body’s immune system to identify the cancer cells and stop the disease returning.

As someone who has seen first-hand how melanoma skin cancer can metastasise (when cancer cells break away from the original site to form new tumours in other parts of the body), I feel qualified to speak about this subject.

This new skin cancer jab works along the same lines as immunotherapy, currently given as an IV infusion. My mother was treated with immunotherapy drugs for stage 4 melanoma, when what began as a malignant mole turned into cancer that spread to her brain, liver, lungs, stomach and bones with the force and speed of a wildfire, leaving her only weeks away from death.


Immunotherapy gave me more time with my mum – and now it will help countless women with cervical cancer 

It’s finally being offered in the UK.


On the one hand, I’m hopeful about this jab and the future for skin cancer survivors. There has been an unprecedented uptick in the number of skin cancer cases in recent years, making it one of the top 5 cancers to affect women in the UK.

Current data reveals 46 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day in the UK, with rates expected to rise over the next two years.

Immunotherapy saved my mum’s life and, for that reason, I will always be its biggest advocate. But I’m also worried that some people will see this jab as a cure for skin cancer and a green light to sunbathe without SPF protection and use sunbeds.

Immunotherapy saved my mum’s life and, for that reason, I will always be its biggest advocate. But I’m also worried that some people will see this jab as a cure for skin cancer and a green light to sunbathe without SPF protection and use sun beds.

It’s still early days for this jab. If it is eventually rolled out on the NHS, it won’t be like a measles vaccine that will stop you from contracting the disease in the first place. You already have to be diagnosed with skin cancer to be treated with the jab.

There may also be the possibility that you won’t have access to it. Currently you need to meet certain criteria for immunotherapy treatment for skin cancer. And despite being available on the NHS, not every trust has access to oncologists trained in this field or the drugs themselves.

Protection rather than cure is crucial

I get it – sunscreen rarely captures the imagination. It’s not a sexy beauty trend on TikTok. But here’s the thing: it could save your life. Literally.

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The beauty industry has been scratching its collective head over how to get make the sun safe message more appealing. The real draw is the texture and finish of SPFs – and I think it may just have landed on a combination to win over even the most fussy sunscreen haters.

Some of the best facial sunscreens I’ve tested include Supergoop!’s Every.Single.Face SPF50 Watery Lotion, a lightweight milk that’s ideal if your skin skews dry and Tatcha’s The Silk Sunscreen SPF50 for mineral lovers.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios UVMune 400 Oil Control SPF50+ has a truckload of science behind it and even protects against ultra-long UVA rays.

Supergoop! Every. Single. Face. SPF50 Watery Lotion


Mecca Cosmetica To Save Face SPF50+


Tatcha The Silk Sunscreen SPF 50


La Roche-Posay Anthelios UVmune 400 Oil Control Fluid SPF50+



Mecca Cosmetica’s To Save Face SPF50+ Facial Sunscreen has a matte finish that plays nicely under makeup while the new Glossier Invisible Shield SPF50 has a texture that rivals the best primers.

For the body, I always rely on Garnier Ambre Solaire SPF50+ Sensitive Advanced Sun Spray.

All these sunscreens have two things in common – to look and feel invisible on your skin – so I’m hopeful.

For more from Fiona Embleton, GLAMOUR’s Associate Beauty Director, follow her on @fiembleton.

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