Long days on the beach usually consist of slathering on a high SPF sunscreen and hoping you don't get burnt. But is this the best thing we can do to prevent melanoma? Although sunscreen is meant to prevent skin cancer, some sunscreens contain so many chemicals that they can actually be harmful. So with more than being 3,000,000 people diagnosed with skin cancer yearly, what should we do?
Firstly, there is no proof that sunscreen can even prevent melanoma successfully compared to other methods. There are two types of rays that can be harmful to our skin. UVB rays are what cause burns and nonmelanoma skin cancers while UVA rays penetrate deeper and are responsible for suppressing the immune system and creating a higher risk for melanoma. Although UVA rays are the culprit, they are harder to prevent and are often less protected against with sunscreen compared to UVB rays.
Aside from sunscreen offering limited protection, they can also contain harmful chemicals. Sunscreens can be ingested in many ways. Whether this is through spraying in the air or applying to lips. Additionally they are often made to last longer and adhere to the skin better, making them powerful skin penetrators. So it should be no surprise when these chemicals can be found in blood urine and breast milk.
Many of these UV filters such as oxybenzone can actually mimic hormones. These chemical filters are often not tested for the hazardous results they can cause. This is because the FDA uses a grandfathered clause from the 1970s (47 years ago). The most worrisome of the filters is oxybenzone. It is found in 65% of non mineral sunscreens and is a weak estrogen and antiandrogen. This means it is linked to lowered testosterone levels in teen boys and men. It is also linked to endometriosis in women and causes skin allergies. This is very scary considering it is also found in 96% of the population. Luckily, it is easy to reduce your exposure by using mineral sunscreens that don't contain oxybenzone.
Other ways to reduce your exposure while still preventing melanoma are by wearing hats or swim shirts, finding shade, using sunglasses, avoiding the sunniest times of the day, and considering the UV index and ingredients in the sunscreen you use.
Clearly, it is always important to consider the ingredients in any product you use. Avoiding sun burns is essential in preventing melanoma so while it is important to use sunscreen, there are healthier alternatives. By using a mineral sunscreen with a high UV index, you can prevent damage to your hormone systems.
By: Sara Frawley