Debunking Skin Cancer Myths
Canadians seem to have a love-hate relationship with sunscreen. We love the protection it offers our skin, but generally aren’t fans of how it feels, smells and costs. But what’s more worrisome is that we’re turning these dislikes into actual excuses for avoiding sunscreen. With many people skipping sun protection, it’s not surprising that melanoma diagnoses are rising in Canada. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, melanoma rates in the past two decades have increased, despite the fact that it is one of the most easily preventable forms of cancer. In 2014, it was estimated that 6,500 Canadians would be diagnosed with the disease, and 1,050 would die from it.
Let’s bust some excuses with expert information on unfounded sunscreen myths may contribute to your risk of skin cancer.
1. My body won’t be able to process vitamin D if I wear sunscreen.
There’s a commonly held belief that sunscreen use will lead to vitamin D deficiency because the lotion prevents your skin from absorbing the sun’s rays. Dr. Anatoli Freiman, dermatologist and medical director of the Toronto Dermatology Centre, says this idea is a myth. “Wearing sunscreen doesn’t completely block the sun’s rays, or prevent complete blockage of vitamin D synthesization and production,” he says.
If you’re still concerned that you’re not getting sufficient amounts of the “sunshine vitamin,” make sure you are eating foods rich in vitamin D. Health Canada recommends foods such as fatty fish (salmon), egg yolks and fortified milk to up your vitamin D intake. You can also ask your physician or pharmacist about taking vitamin D supplements.
2. My cosmetics already have SPF.
Some makeup offer SPF (sun protection factor), but most people don’t wear enough foundation, eye shadow, or lipstick to offer completely protect skin, plus most cosmetics don’t contain enough SPF. “The majority of makeup products have SPF 15. That’s not enough for adequate protection,” says Dr. Freiman. “And when people put makeup on, they put it on the face so it doesn’t address the rest of the body.”
Dermatologists recommend you use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 in addition to your cosmetics. Broad-spectrum means that the product will protect your skin from two types of ultra violet rays, UVA and UVB. UVA rays can prematurely age your skin, while UVB rays are responsible for sunburn. Too much exposure to both UVA and UVB rays can lead to the development of skin cancer. To ensure that you’re applying enough sunscreen to cover your face and body, Dr. Freiman suggests using a golfball or shot glass-sized amount, and plan to reapply it every two hours.