Sunscreens: do they really work?
By Klaus Ferlow, HMH, HA
Finally summer has arrived and with it lots of sunshine providing Vitamin D that our body does not produce. Especially the elderly here in British Columbia, Canada need the sun after month of cloudy weather, wind and rain.
But with the sun comes also the danger of overexposure which can create skin cancer and the worst one is melanoma.
Several years ago, a medical doctor appeared on television announcing that she had melanoma cancer in the final stage and had only a few month to live warning people for the ultraviolet harmful rays of the sun. She did spend most of her vacation on beaches with lots of sunshine in different countries and regretted it since as medical doctor she should have known better. Her plea was: please be careful with the overexposure to the harsh UVA and UVB rays of the sun! A few weeks later I read she had died!!
As a young boy in Germany I was going for a swim in a lake and since I was tired I was fallen asleep. When I woke up I had some red skin all over my belly and after returning home my mother put buttermilk, lots of it on my skin which was cooling and soothing. The next few day my skin developed blisters, peeling began and all the burned skin came off. Luckily I had only first degree burns otherwise it would have created serious skin problems eventually even melanoma. I read articles that a severe sunburn in your young age can haunt you and can come back in the later stages of your life, even with melanoma!
In “the old days” melanoma used to be rare and the risk to develop of the disease of North Americans was one in 1500, now it’s one in 63 for males and one in 90 for woman, but in the last several years due to the whole in the atmosphere the ultraviolet rays of the sun are so strong that in less than 15 minutes direct sunshine you get a sunburn. If you are on a boat on the ocean, river or lake the water has a “mirror-effect” and you get even quicker sunburns!
The incidents of melanoma are rising rapidly and one of the reason is that you can still watch people at beaches laying in the sunshine for hours to get a nice tan not realizing what the sun does to their skin and often targets health people in the prime of their lives!
It is therefore suggested in case you spot a dark brown mole on your skin immediately visit your doctor for a diagnosis before the skin cancer spreads which could be life saving!
The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that 6,800 people were diagnosed with skin cancer last year.
How can you protect yourself from skin cancer inclusive a malignant tumor called melanoma?
Most people use sunscreen and believe it prevents sunburns but is that really true?
Manufacturers of sunscreens claim that combining several ingredients help prevents the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation from reaching the skin and the two types of ultraviolet radiation, UVA and UVB, damage the skin and increase your risk of skin cancer.
What are UVA and UVB?
They are part of the electric magnetic (light) spectrum that reaches the earth from the sun. Ultraviolet A (UVA) is the longer and Ultraviolet B (UVB) is the shorter wave UV ray that causes sunburns, skin damage and can cause skin cancer.
What is SPF?
Also called Sun Protection Factor is a measure of sunscreen’s ability to prevent UVB from damaging the skin. Usually it takes twenty minutes that your skin starts turning red. Manufacturers claim by using an SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening 15 times longer, close to five hours and protecting against UVB. But is this really true?
Here is a list of chemicals you will find in a number of sunscreens you should avoid:
Dioxybenzone and oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate are most potent and harmful, also para amino benzoic acid, oxtyl salicylate, padimate O, homosalate, sulisobenzone, menthyl anthranilate, trolamine salicylate, octcyline.
Even a tan is a sign of DNA damage that can lead to skin cancer! UVB cause burning and UVA don’t cause burning but are still destructive. UV exposure damages DNA in skin cells, causing genetic mutations that can lead that cells become cancerous. Try to avoid tanning beds which the World Health Organization calls “carcinogenic!” Before you buy a sunscreen better read all the ingredients on the label!!
Most beneficial is zinc oxide for active UVA and UVB ray protection, also wear proper cloth and always a hat and stay not longer than ten minutes in direct sunshine, after that in the shade. Avoid midday UV when rays are the strongest!
There is really a controversy whether sunscreens with SPF are preventing sunburns or not. There is also evidence that some commonly used ingredients have the potential to do damage in the body. For example, titanium dioxide produces free radicals which can damage DNA. Some people have allergic reactions to some of the chemicals in sunscreen.
Klaus Ferlow, Master Herbalist (HMH) & Herbal Advocate, (HA), author, innovator, lecturer, researcher, writer, founder of FERLOW BOTANICALS, Vancouver, B.C. and NEEM RESEARCH, Mission, B.C., member of the Health Action Network Society, Canadian Herbalist’s Association of BC., National Health Federation, International Herb Association, Plant Savers, Neem Foundation, Mumbai, India, co-author of the book “7 Steps to Dental Health.”, author of the book “Neem – Nature’s Healing Gift to Humanity,” www.neemresearch.ca, firstname.lastname@example.org.
This information is offered for its educational value and should not be used in the diagnoses, cure, treatment, or prevention of disease, please contact your health care provider.