My sisters, summer is upon us. And with a change of season comes a change of closet and yes, another set of controversies. This one is all about the sun. Or shall I say, the sunscreen. In my pursuit of larger brain capacity I have been reading up about this little this little concept called ULTRAVIOLET Rays. I wanted to know what indeed was my SPF (Sun protection factor) protecting and whether SPF 50 was indeed too much of a good thing.
It turns out that SPF in a suntan lotion only covers the UVB rays of the sun and not the UVA rays. Melanoma is chiefly caused by UVB rays, while non-melanoma skin cancer are more closely related to UVA rays.
And then, amongst my knowledge quest came the controversy. There indeed is a suspicion out there that sunscreen indeed may be linked to skin cancers. Has the world gone completely bat-shit, I thought? Black is white? Left is right? Wrong is right? What the ....?
Twenty five years ago I worshipped the sun as much as any eighties-child with a bottle of baby oil and a backyard. There we lay out on fold away cots made of multicoloured vinyl straps purchased from our local K-Mart. Coppertone coco butter scented oil poured as freely as oil from the Gulf as we waited for our pigments to turn and our lives to change.
I know now that my moment in the sun was indeed not a good idea. I realize my baby oil was a bad thing- not just in principle but in action. As we grow older in life we do indeed realize that certain life choices are not the best ones. Could the same be said for my now SPF 50?
Make no mistake, I acknowledge as a doctor that indeed nothing is black and white. We all indeed must weigh the risks and benefits. I do think when it comes to certain schools of thought- we've gone a bit, shall we say, off the deep end of common sense and jumped right into crazy town.
It's no longer about simple protection from the sun. Now, products have to be hypo-allergenic, water resistant and fast-absorbing, infused with antioxidants, with high photo stability and specially engineered with patented ultraviolet absorbers to guard against a broad spectrum of harmful rays.
Meanwhile, environmental advocates are increasingly warning that a significant number of sunscreens also contain a host of risky ingredients that could potentially cause cancer or other serious health effects.
Part of the uncertainty stems from the growing availability of products that boast protection from both ultraviolet B and ultraviolet A rays. Traditionally, sunscreens have offered protection against UVB rays, which cause the skin to burn and indeed cause melanoma.
Interestingly enough the SPF factor does not correlate with the amount of time you can spend out in the sun. For example- SPF 15 protects against about 94% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 protects against 98%. As for SPF 60? That's about 99% anything higher is just more chemical.
UVA rays were once thought not to be of concern. Current science indeed shows that UVA rays
penetrate deeper into the skin and can cause premature aging, as well as increase the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.
Sunscreens guard against sunburns these two common forms of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell carcinoma (BCC), and several sunscreen ingredients protect against tumor development in photocarcinogenicity tests in mice.
However, there is some evidence, largely arising from correlational studies and in vitro experiments, that particular sunscreen ingredients (such as oxybenzone, benzophenone, octocrylene, or octyl methoxycinnamate) may be linked to increased risks of malignant melanoma, a rarer but more deadly form of skin cancer. It has also been linked to Vitamin D deficiency.
Two small studies have shown that Malignant melanoma has been found more frequently in sunscreen users compared to non-users in some studies. However a large scale met-analysis of 9067 patients from 11 case–control studies found no association between sunscreen use and development of malignant melanoma.
Further studies have suggested that sunscreens block the natural warnings and adaptations mediated by UVB, but allow damage from UVA to go unchecked. These claims were bullshit and essentially not supported in three separate metaanalysis in the Annals of Epidemiology.
Overall the only evidence to correlate a risk of melanoma and suncreen use is circumstantial and there are a few rat models. That being said the mice they used in those studies were specifically engineered to develop cancer.
In 2008, a clinical study showed that the application of sunscreen prevents SCC, BCC and actinic keratosis. The study included 60 transplant patients who received immunosuppression, a group of persons with a particularly high risk to develop skin cancer. The patients were very compliant, using sunscreen 5.6 days per week on average. The control group was recruited retrospectively and consisted of 60 transplant patients equally matched for age, skin type and kind of transplant organ. The control group had been instructed to use sunscreen as well, but were not provided with cost-free sunscreen and showed very poor compliance.
After 24 months, the sunscreen group showed a 53% reduction of actinic keratosis, while the control group showed an increase of 38%. The difference in the development of SCC and BCC were also highly significant. Non-significant results included a slight decrease of herpes and warts and a slight increase in acne in the sunscreen group
My head is spinning. After reviewing it all I think it is yet another bullshit marketing ploy to get people to use "natural sunscreen" or confuse the public. Remember.... Grey is fabulous when it come to fall fashion and morality.... Grey areas are bullshit when it come to health promotion.
Here's my solutions.... Put on some CLOTHES damn it. YES! My reason for living saves the day again. I always wanted to know that my closet would protect me from cancer.... and here it is. Now... can I right it off as a health tax benefit?