Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul - Jim Valvano
Despite aggressive campaigns reminding people to liberally use sunscreens, skin cancer including melanoma is on the rise. Just look at Australia. According to WHO “Currently, between 2 and 3 million non-melanoma skin cancers and 132,000 melanoma skin cancers occur globally each year” and sun exposure is the biggest culprit. While melanoma accounts for only about 4 percent of all skin cancer cases, it causes almost 80 percent of skin cancer deaths.
There is no argument that sunscreens, if used properly, can prevent sunburn. But could ‘slip, slop'...be causing more harm than good? A groundbreaking study in 2011 by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) on the safety and efficacy of sunscreens suggests that this is a distinct possibility.
The EWG study found that 84 percent of 785 sunscreen products with an SPF rating of 15 or higher offer inadequate protection from the sun’s harmful rays, or contain ingredients with safety concerns. For example, some popular sunscreen chemicals break down when exposed to sunlight and must be formulated with stabilizing chemicals while others penetrate the skin and present significant health concerns. And remember, about 20% of sunscreen products are not broad-spectrum - UVA and UVB.
On top of this, sunburn-causing UVB wavelengths that sunscreens are designed to block also start the chemical reaction in your body that produces vitamin D. Extensive use of sunblock reduces the amount of helpful UVB our bodies absorb creating the potential for vitamin D deficiency. And research shows that at least 30% of us are already vitamin D deficient.
Ironically, it is nearly impossible to get enough vitamin D from food. Sunlight exposure is the only reliable way to get your body to produce it in adequate quanities. Some researchers say that we need about 20 to 30 minutes of exposure daily to generate enough Vitamin D. They recommend getting out in the sunlight unprotected before 10am and after 4pm to receive the benefits of UVB rays while minimizing any damage. By the way, it would take ten glasses of Vitamin D-fortified milk to get the minimum amount of Vitamin D required each day.
Here's the kicker...evidence suggests that Vitamin D may help prevent cancer as well as osteoporosis, depression and even affects diabetes and obesity. Researchers are also discovering that vitamin D promotes normal cell growth and is fundamental for maintaining hormonal balance and a strong immune system.
So, if you believe sunscreens may cause more harm than good, don’t use them or check out some of the ‘natural’ sunscreens. But, if you believe that the current sunscreens are beneficial and outweigh the risks, choose a product that is broad-spectrum with an SPF of at least 30 with a PPD of at least 8. Apply products 15-30 minutes before sun exposure, even on cloudy days. And always remember sunscreen is not waterproof!
And if you are still not convinced either way check out the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Sunscreens and view their “Hall of Fame “and “Hall of Shame.” The July 2010 issue of Consumer Reports also rates sunscreen products.
At this point it appears that sunscreens can prevent that nasty sunburn, but are they really protective in the long term? Time will tell.
EWG's Guide to Sunscreens
Do you depend on sunscreen for skin protection? Millions of Americans do, but they shouldn’t. Melanoma rates are increasing. The consensus among scientists is that sunscreens alone cannot reverse this trend. Yet a good sunscreen can play role in preventing sunburns that are a major risk factor for melanoma – provided you use it correctly.
AIM at Melanoma
A melanoma diagnosis can lead to many unanswered questions. Aim for Answers makes finding the right information easier, by providing patients, caregivers and family members, with everything they need to know about melanoma.
American Academy of Dermatology
Melanoma begins on the surface of the skin where it is easy to see and treat. If given time to grow, melanoma can grow down into the skin, ultimately reaching the blood and lymphatic vessels, and apread around the body (metastasize), causing life-threatening illness.
American Cancer Society
Whether it's in our Overviews, Detailed Guides, or one of our other cancer documents, chances are you will find the information you need in this section.
American Melanoma Foundation
The American Melanoma Foundation is a voluntary health agency, registered as a 501(c)(3) charitable, non-profit organization. AMF is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors dedicated to serving the needs of patients and communities nationwide, and is a member of the National Council On Skin Cancer Prevention
March Against Melanoma
The March Against Melanoma ™ campaign is taking steps to create awareness, promote the importance of early detection and prevention against skin cancer and melanoma.
Melanoma Education Foundation
The Melanoma Education Foundation is a non-profit organization devoted to saving lives from melanoma, a common skin cancer that is often deadly unless detected early before there are any symptoms.
Melanoma International Foundation
We provide hope and guidance to melanoma patients and families by empowering them with correct up-to-date information. We are on the cutting edge of creating and supporting the most effective melanoma programs for the prevention, early detection, and treatment of melanoma.
Melanoma Research Alliance
Collaboration is at MRA's core—from the team approaches to research that we fund, to the way we find partners who can help us realize our vision. Our allies are also focused on increasing public knowledge about the seriousness of melanoma and ways to reduce risk and improve early detection.
Melanoma Research Foundation
The Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) is the largest independent organization devoted to melanoma. Committed to the support of medical research in finding effective treatments and eventually a cure for melanoma, the MRF also educates patients and physicians about prevention, diagnosis and the treatment of melanoma.
The number of new cases of melanoma diagnosed each year in the United States has more than doubled over the past three decades.
National Cancer Society
Information about melanoma treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and vaccine therapy.
National Melanoma Awareness Project
The National Melanoma Awareness Project is a medical-student run educational outreach program directed at local middle school and high school students. This community service project educates all participants about skin safety and skin cancer with an emphasis on melanoma prevention and self screening for earlier detection.
Skin Care Foundation
Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. However, if it is recognized and treated early, it is nearly 100 percent curable.
Most other skin cancers don�t spread, but melanoma can spread through the whole body. If it is found early, it can be cured. If it is found late, it may cause death.
Melanoma is the most serious and deadly type of skin cancer. Melanoma develops in the cells that produce melanin.
Three types of cancers account for virtually 100% of skin cancers. The nonmelanomatous skin cancers include basal cell carcinomaand squamous cell carcinoma. Malignant melanoma is the third, and most deadly, type of skin cancer.
Melanoma can be cured if it is diagnosed and treated early. If melanoma is not removed in its early stages, cancer cells may grow downward from the skin surface and invade healthy tissue. If it spreads to other parts of the body it can be difficult to control.