Sunscreen is always on the top of everyone’s shopping list leading up to Summer. So, it’s crucial that as the rate of skin cancers rise, you know the facts about which sunscreens do and don’t work.
In the United States, the rate of patients diagnosed with melanoma – the most deadly type of skin cancer – is gradually increasing.
Statistics found by the National Cancer Institute, show the number of reported melanoma cases in adults has tripled since the 70s. Nearly 23 people in 100,000 people had skin cancer in 2015, in contrast to only 7.9 people in 1975.
What’s more worrying is the death rate for melanoma in white Americans (the highest group at risk) has risen quickly from 2.6 in 100,000 people in 1975 to 4.5 people in 2015.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released it’s 12th Annual Guide to Sunscreens, which highlights the best sunscreen products, along with the worst (and potentially harmful) products.
Spray sunscreens can be ineffective and even dangerous
In the EWG guide, it’s recommended people stay away from sprays, as they don’t necessarily protect people from the sun. The trend of spray applications is considered a problem, as there is an inhalation risk, as well as an inability to coat a thick protective layer on the skin.
In this year’s guide, the EWG found there was a 30 percent increase in the number of spray sunscreens currently on shelves, with the number of products having quadrupled since 2007. People are recommended to not use spray but instead opt for a lotion-based sunscreen.
The higher SPF doesn’t mean it’s better
Contrary to popular belief, a brand of sunscreen with a higher level of SPF, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s better.
EWG researchers say SPF ratings of 75 and above fool people into thinking that their skin is highly and fully protected from the dangers of the sun for long periods of time. They usually misuse these products and tend to stay out in the sun longer without reapplying sunscreen. This then puts themselves and their families at great risk of developing melanomas.
According to EWG, higher rating SPF products also contain an increased amount of sun-filtering chemicals in contrast to others. These chemicals can lead to more types of skin damage and other risks, including tissue damage, hormone disruption and allergic reactions to say the least.
No evidence to support sunscreen alone prevents skin cancer
As the rates of skin cancer continue to rise, sunscreen alone can’t fully prevent you from developing the disease. EWG does confirm, though, that sunscreen protects people’s skin from sunburn, which can result in squamous cell carcinoma (another type of skin cancer).
There is no evidence, however, that supports sunscreen preventing another form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma. EWG states that they disagree with brands advertising that their sunscreens prevent cancer, as it just isn’t true.
Experts say that melanoma is one of the most preventable cancers, but only using sunscreen just isn’t the answer. They say to protect yourself when you go outside, you should:
- Cover up
- Plan outdoor activities outside of peak sun times
- Find shade.
The best prevention is to stay out of the sun as much as possible to avoid skin cancer and sunburn.
It is very important to do self-checks as no one knows your skin better than you. You should check for any irregularities such as if a new spot or lesion appears or an existing mole changes in size, colour or shape.If you notice any of these changes, see your doctor for a mole check.
Remember, nearly all forms of skins cancers can be treated if they are detected early enough.
Olivia writes for Queensland’s largest after-hours home visiting doctor service House Call Doctor. Working alongside medical experts, Olivia has covered a range of health and wellbeing topics for national and international publications. In her current role, she aims to inform Australian audiences of the trends and concerns that affect their health