Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sunscreen...One Defense but Not the Only Defense

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) put out a report in May about the realities of sunscreen.  In short, they cite that the use of sunscreen could be ineffective and in some cases, damaging.  But you really have to read deeper into their words…far beyond the headline.

The report states that sunscreen may not, in fact prevent melanoma or basal cell carcinoma.  This correlates with a presentation I attended at UNC a couple months ago where Dr. Antony reported basically the same thing.  However, there was a study in Australia in 2011 that showed decreased risk of melanoma with regards to sunscreen users.  In short, the jury is still out, but most dermatologists still suggest the use of sunscreen.  The use of sunscreen may not be dangerous…it’s how we apply it.

It’s a fact that many of are guilty of…we don’t wear sunscreen every day.  When we do, it’s when we plan to spend a large amount of time outdoors on a sunny day.  Going to the pool or beach, going golfing, attending an outdoor festival…these are events that cause many of us to apply the lotion or spray.  It seems many of us equate sunscreen application with hot weather…as if it offers a cooling agent.  In reality, UV rays are immune to temperature…they’ll beat down upon you whether it’s hot, comfortable or cold.  To effectively fight off the daily affects of UV rays, we need to apply it every day.  As stated in “Dear 16 Year Old Me,” it’s a huge pain in the ass, but it’s worth it.

Many folks develop a false sense of security when they lather on the sunscreen.   Sometimes, even after a couple hours in the sun and in the pool, you can feel the lotion still on the skin so you feel like the sunscreen is still doing the job.  But the effectiveness of the sunscreen breaks down while the lotion itself may remain.  It’s important to reapply every two hours…even if you still feel it on you.

We also have to understand that sunscreen is not the only defense against UV rays and skin cancer.  It is ONE defense…but it can’t do the job alone.  We must be sun-safe and protect ourselves in other ways:

·       Wear a hat…one that protects your ears and neck is best.
·       Wear sunglasses that protect against UV rays.
·       Stay in the shade.  Trust me, not only does it help fight the UV rays, it feels a lot cooler on these 100+ degree days!
·       Avoid the midday sun.  If the length of your shadow is shorter than your height, the sun is giving you a full beat down.  Try to get out in the morning before 10:00 or the evening after 4:00.
·       Wear protective clothing.  Light but tight-woven fabrics are best…or seek out UV protective clothing at UV Skinz, Coolibar, or other such retailers.

Sunscreen is one good defense against UV rays and ultimately skin cancer, but it needs help in winning the battle.  Apply it correctly, apply it often, but don’t count on it to do all the work.   

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