Nothing Like the Sun? Icarus my ASS!


What the hell is going on? I read an article yesterday in the Globe and Mail that suggests that sunscreen is dangerous for you health. Has the world gone completely bat-shit? Black is white? Left is right? Wrong is right? What the ….? Twenty five years ago I worshipped the sun as much as any eighties-child with a bottle of baby oil and a backyard. There we lay out on fold away cots made of multicoloured vinyl straps purchased from our local K-Mart. Coppertone coco butter scented oil poured as freely as oil from the Gulf as we waited for our pigments to turn and our lives to change.

Taking into account that I had also put lemon juice into my hair (in order to lighten it) and I was one part Margarita, one part Pina Colada and all parts… fabulous. Make no mistake, I truly looked and smelled ridiculous. I am aware of that now in retrospect. But I was 14 years old and a healthy sense of self esteem can be hard to come by in a teenager, so here to fore- I celebrate it.

It’s no longer about simple protection from the sun. Now, products have to be hypo-allergenic, water resistant and fast-absorbing, infused with antioxidants, with high photo stability and specially engineered with patented ultraviolet absorbers to guard against a broad spectrum of harmful rays.

Meanwhile, environmental advocates are increasingly warning that a significant number of sunscreens also contain a host of risky ingredients that could potentially cause cancer or other serious health effects.

Part of the uncertainty stems from the growing availability of products that boast protection from both ultraviolet B and ultraviolet A rays. Traditionally, sunscreens have offered protection against UVB rays, which cause the skin to burn. The level of UVB protection in a particular sunscreen is marked by its sun protection factor, or SPF.

But there is mounting concern over the damaging effects of UVA rays, which scientists say penetrate deeper into the skin and can cause premature aging, as well as increase the risk of skin cancer.

Sunscreen protects against two common forms of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell carcinoma (BCC), and several sunscreen ingredients protect against tumor development in photocarcinogenicity tests in mice. However, there is some evidence, largely arising from correlational studies and in vitro experiments, that particular sunscreen ingredients (such as oxybenzone, benzophenone, octocrylene, or octyl methoxycinnamate) may be linked to increased risks of malignant melanoma, a rarer but more deadly form of skin cancer. It has also been linked to Vitamin D deficiency.

Two small studies have shown that Malignant melanoma has been found more frequently in sunscreen users compared to non-users in some studies. However a large scale met-analysis of 9067 patients from 11 case–control studies found no association between sunscreen use and development of malignant melanoma.

Furhter studies have suggested that sunscreens block the natural warnings and adaptations mediated by UVB, but allow damage from UVA to go unchecked. These claims were bullshit and essentially not supported in three separate metaanalysis in the Annals of Epidemiology.

Overall the only evidence to correlate a risk of melanoma and suncreen use is cicumstantial and there are a few rat models. That being said the mice they used in those studies were specifically engineered to develop cancer.

In 2008, a clinical study showed that the application of sunscreen prevents SCC, BCC and actinic keratosis. The study included 60 transplant patients who received immunosuppression, a group of persons with a particularly high risk to develop skin cancer. The patients were very compliant, using sunscreen 5.6 days per week on average. The control group was recruited retrospectively and consisted of 60 transplant patients equally matched for age, skin type and kind of transplant organ. The control group had been instructed to use sunscreen as well, but were not provided with cost-free sunscreen and showed very poor compliance.

After 24 months, the sunscreen group showed a 53% reduction of actinic keratosis, while the control group showed an increase of 38%. The difference in the development of SCC and BCC were also highly significant. Non-significant results included a slight decrease of herpes and warts and a slight increase in acne in the sunscreen group

My head is spinning. After reviewing it all I think it is yet another bullshit marketing ploy to get people to use “natural sunscreen” or confuse the public. Remember…. Grey is fabulous when it come to fall fashion and morality…. Grey areas are bullshit when it come to health promotion.

Here’s my solutions…. Put on some CLOTHES damn it. YES! My reason for living saves the day again. I always wanted to know that my closet would protect me from cancer…. and here it is. Now… can I right it off as a health tax benefit?

And so my days of a teenage mixed drink are over. Coco butter oil and lemon be gone. I sit in the shade, wear a mother of a hat and the best pair of Don’t bother me sunglasses I can buy…. bring out those fabulous Helmut Lang black dresses I have been eyeing since early May and let the healing begin.

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