Scientist have now shown that sunscreen chemicals soak all the way into the bloodstream. But the Food and Drug Administration has never tested how they might mess up people’s hormones, affect their reproductive systems, or cause cancer.
Wait, wut?! My grandkids get slathered with the stuff on a regular basis! Ack! I’m chemically hypersensitive, so I’m always inclined to lean heavily on “Don’t Trust Chemicals.”
But my brother died of a malignant melanoma. And Hubby Dearest has vitiligo; patches of his skin and hair are white. His still-Italian-pigmented skin tans beautifully every summer, but what I call his “pinto patches” turn pink, including the entire back of his neck.
A couple of days ago, I read that the concern about sun exposure and cancer is way over-blown. While it is well know that spending too much time in the sun gives you wrinkles and makes you more likely to get skin cancer, MODERATE sun exposure is actually very beneficial. In fact, the very rays that sunscreen blocks are the rays that kick off the chemical and metabolic chain reaction that produces vitamin D.
Research shows that many people have low vitamin D levels. There is a well-documented relationship between low vitamin D levels and poor bone health. Now links have been made to everything from multiple sclerosis to prostate cancer. “Linking” low vitamin D with these diseases doesn’t prove cause-and-effect, but it suggests that possibility.
Getting some sun may also shake off the wintertime blues. Research suggests that light hitting your skin, not just your eyes, helps reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Moreover, being outside gets us golfing, gardening, and engaging in other types of physical activity.
How much sun is too much? First off, 95% of all skin cancers are non-melanoma and highly curable when treated early. Only the third – malignant melanoma – is super serious. You’re at risk for skin cancer if:
- you’ve had skin cancer before,
- it runs in your family,
- you work outside or live in a sunny climate,
- you’ve had severe sunburns,
- you have more than 30 irregularly-shaped moles, and/or
- you use tanning beds.
The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change on the skin, typically a new mole or spot, or a change in an existing mole. “ABCDE” is a good way to remember what to look for:
- Asymmetry. The shape of one half doesn’t match the other.
- Border. The edges are ragged or blurred.
- Color. It has uneven shades of brown, black, tan, red, white, or blue.
- Diameter. There’s been a significant change in size.
- Evolving. This means any new spot or mole changing in color, shape, or size, and any spot that itches, bleeds or becomes painful.
Harvard Medical School’s recommendation is to only use a 15 SPF sunscreen if you’re going to be outside for an extended period with bare skin. And if you’re going to be out at midday when the sun is strongest, wear a hat and a shirt.