The Importance of Wearing Sunscreen
One of the strange things about living in Southern California is that sometimes you can't tell the Asians apart from the Latinos on quick glance, especially in the summer. The boys and I spend a good portion of the year being brown rather than yellow. It doesn't seem to matter how much sunblock I put on our bodies, we just can't avoid getting tan. My mother-in-law wears a burka type get up on her face, gloves and a light long sleeve shirt with the collar up whenever she drives--the only part of her body that the sun could possibly hit are her eyes, but then those are covered up with sunglasses. Recently I gave in and bought driving gloves for myself. Not really to keep from getting tan, but because the sun was starting to hurt my arms every time I drove long distances (like driving to Legoland twice in eight days).
But all this got me thinking--what is the point of sunscreen? Maybe it's because I grew up in Chicago, ranked 25th out of 26 cities surveyed for the American Academy of Dermatology's “Suntelligence: How Sun Smart is Your City?” online survey. (The Academy's website has good tips on sun protection for kids.) I just don't think sunscreen works all that well. If you think about it, since the beginning of the human race people have been working outside, whether as hunters or gatherers. Most of the world still uses farming techniques which require workers to be outdoors for most of the day. I highly doubt that farmers and other outdoor workers in Asia or Africa are lathering on the sunscreen. So if people haven't been dropping like flies from skin cancer without it do I really need sunscreen? More importantly, do I really need to be attacking my kids with sunblock sprays and lotions before sun exposure?
According to AOL News, "Almost half of the 500 most popular sunscreen products may actually increase the speed at which malignant cells develop and spread skin cancer because they contain vitamin A or its derivatives, according to an evaluation of those products released" by the Environmental Working Group. If you look under "Skin Cancer" in Wikipedia, sun exposure is only 1 out of 7 potential causes of the disease. The site echoes the AOL News article in suggesting that when sunscreen penetrates into the skin it generates reactive chemicals and is correlated with cancerous tumors. Both sources suggest that hats, clothing and shade are the most reliable sun protection available. Recently Senator Charles Schumer told the Food and Drug Administration to speed up the studies to determine whether many sunscreens increase rather than prevent skin cancer.Continued on the next page