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Sunscreens

Well it’s finally getting warmer in Central New York and that means thousands of parents will be slathering their young wards with sunscreen …do they make SPF 1,000? Because I know if they did there would be plenty of mothers who would use it. Anything to protect the kinder. Except, what if the sunscreen you are using may actually hurt the kids? As Dr Mercola points out “Despite the availability of sunscreen products and media coverage about using sun protection, the number of people suffering from malignant melanoma of the skin continues to rise each year. The number of new cases of skin cancer per 100,000 people has risen from 7.9 in 1975 to 24 people in 2013. “

I can hear you now..well ..that’s because we are still not using enough sunscreen. Apply it more often and use a higher SPF say the sun-deniers. Well the science says otherwise. “According to a 2006 US Environmental Protection Agency publication, “there is no evidence that sunscreens protect you from malignant melanoma.”A number of studies suggest that the use of sunscreen either does not significantly decrease the risk or may actually increase the risk of melanoma.Other studies indicate that sunscreen users, when compared with non users, may actually be more likely to develop sunburns, thereby possibly increasing their risk of melanoma.These studies, as well as the continued increase in rates of melanoma, call into question whether our current advice regarding sunscreen use is truly beneficial in preventing melanoma or if it may actually be detrimental in the fight against melanoma.”

As reviewed in 2011 in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine …

“Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a known carcinogen. Both UVA and UVB radiation is emitted by the sun, but because UVB was thought to be the primary causative agent of all skin cancers by direct damage to DNA, initial sunscreens were developed that blocked UVB with little or no protective effects against UVA. The sun protection factor (SPF) label on sunscreen relates to protection against UVB radiation and is not at all related to UVA radiation protection. Recent studies suggest that UVA radiation plays a role in the development of melanoma, not necessarily through direct DNA damage but through oxidative stress, free radical generation, and the degradation of vitamin D. Sunscreens that contain benzophenones (such as oxybenzone and sulisobenzone), avobenzone (Parsol 1789), ecamsule (Mexoryl, La Roche-Posay, France), titanium dioxide, or zinc oxide may provide some UVA protection. However, in one in vitro analysis of sunscreen ingredients used to block UVA, the most effective filter, titanium dioxide, blocked only 25% of UVA radiation.Though a number of studies show that the use of sunscreen can reduce the risk of squamous cell carcinoma, sunscreen use was found to be less effective in reducing the risk of basal cell carcinoma. Furthermore, there is no convincing evidence that sunscreen use protects against melanoma. Several studies show either no difference in melanoma rates between sunscreen users and nonusers or a slight increased risk of melanoma in sunscreen users among certain populations.Although there is convincing evidence that nonmelanoma skin cancer is related to cumulative sun exposure, there is less evidence of that association with melanoma. If melanoma were related to cumulative sun exposure, one would expect that outdoor workers would have a greater incidence of melanoma than indoor workers. However, that is not the case. The incidence of melanoma is actually increasing among indoor workers who receive three to nine times less solar UV radiation than outdoor workers. Furthermore, there is a higher incidence of melanoma among whites living in northern states such Delaware, Vermont, and New Hampshire (>30 per 100,000), which enjoy less year-round sunlight and UV radiation than southern states such as Texas, Florida, Arizona, and New Mexico (<25 per 100,000). In California, whites living in San Francisco had a melanoma incidence of 30.5 per 100,000, whereas those living in Los Angeles had an incidence of 24.9 per 100,000.There are a few studies that suggest that chronic, low-grade exposure to sunlight may be protective against melanoma. In one Austrian study, those with chronic sun exposure without sunburn had a reduced incidence of melanoma compared with those with recreational sun exposure. In Germany, outdoor activities during childhood, in the absence of sunburn, were associated with a lower risk of melanoma. Chronic, repeated sun exposure may allow the skin to accommodate to UV radiation by increasing melanin production, thereby reducing the risk of sunburn. An English study published in 2011 showed that regular weekend sun exposure had a protective effect against melanoma, and the researchers postulated that this may be mediated by photo-adaptation or higher vitamin D levels.”

So sun exposure is not the same as sunburn and sunburn is associated with melanoma not sun exposure. But it gets worse since the suntan lotion you are applying might not be so good for you as well. As Dr Mercola points out:

“One of the 12 active sunscreen ingredients the FDA claims to be unsure about is oxybenzone , found in an estimated 70 percent of sunscreens. This, despite studies showing this chemical acts as an endocrine disruptor and has been linked to reduced sperm count in men and endometriosis in women. Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows 96 percent of the U.S. population has oxybenzone in their bodies, which is a testament to just how much sunscreen people are using.Indeed, daily use of sunscreen is one of the reasons cited by the FDA for the need to update safety regulations. People are using far more sunscreen these days, so exposure to potentially hazardous ingredients is of far greater concern than in decades past According to a recent Danish study,13 of 29 sunscreen chemicals (45 percent) allowed in the U.S. and/or European Union have the ability to reduce male fertility by affecting calcium signaling in sperm, in part by exerting a progesterone-like effect. Of those 13 chemicals, eight are approved for use in the U.S. Oxybenzone isn’t the only endocrine disruptor though. At least eight other active sunscreen ingredients are suspected of having endocrine disrupting effects. Oxybenzone is also lethal to certain sea creatures, including horseshoe crab eggs, and researchers warn the widespread use of oxybenzone-containing sunscreens pose a serious threat to coral reefs and sea life.This effect is what prompted Hawaiian lawmakers to ban the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, both of which have been linked to severe coral damage. “

The European Working Group is an organization that looks at safety in personal care products and food as well. Every year they rate sunscreens as to their protection and whether they contain safe products or not. This can be found at ewg.org. So if you are going to slather at least pick and use a product that has been tested and reviewed to be safe for you and your children.

Until next month … get well … stay well.

Dr. Barry
Dr. Joseph T. Barry, MD is Board Certified in both Internal Medicine and Geriatrics. He has relationships with Community General Hospital and has worked at Van Duyn Home and Hospital since 1989. He also has a longstanding relationship with the Iroquois Nursing Home.

Dr. Barry believes you must treat the whole person and not just the presenting problem. He believes there is a real and important connection between your brain, your body and your spiritual self.