It’s no secret among scientists that skin cancer is on the rise in the U.S. According to the National Cancer Institute, the melanoma rate has more than tripled since the 1970’s. The numbers are staggering. This year alone, nearly 90,000 new cases of melanoma are expected to be diagnosed in American adults.
And while researchers almost unanimously agree that excessive sun exposure is a leading cause of melanoma, they’re not so sure about the effectiveness of sunscreen in preventing the cancer. This begs the question, as more people are using sunscreen today than ever before.
Case Adams, a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, is calling attention to the phenomenon that melanoma rates are actually doubling as more people use sunscreen. Adams even goes so far as to claim that “melanoma can be linked to unnatural radiation exposures — and sunburn can be a factor. But the sun is not the primary cause.” In his research, he cites the fact that many cases of melanoma appear all over the body, and in places that are never even exposed to the sun.
But for the sake of understanding the relationship between melanoma and sunscreen, let’s start from the general consensus among the scientific community, that UV rays do in fact contribute to skin damage and ultimately skin cancer.
So does sunscreen totally prevent melanoma? If not, does it at least help to reduce the risk? Unfortunately, the available research is inconclusive, as scientists cannot agree on the matter. For instance, one study might claim that the use of SPF 15 will reduce the risk of melanoma by 50%, while another study will claim that sunscreen use actually increases the likelihood of a cancer diagnosis. And yet other studies arrive at drastically different conclusions all across the board.
The truth is, it’s a very complex matter. However, there is the consensus that those with frequent exposure to lower levels of UV radiation experience fewer instances of melanoma compared to the higher rates of melanoma found in those exposed for shorter periods of time but under intense UV radiation. That is to say, it’s best to avoid getting sunburned, but a mindful exposure to the sun likely won’t cause melanoma.
To sum it up, what has traditionally been viewed as our best preventative measure in avoiding skin cancer (sunscreen!), might actually be giving us a false sense of security. While we may not burn with exposure (SPF sunscreen blocks the sunburn-causing UVB rays), we may experience longer-term skin damage from the UVA rays, which many sunscreens do not protect against, and which are known to be cancer causing.
Keep an eye out for more articles from the experts, as well as tips and tricks that will help you to stay safe out there!