By Dr. Bhumi Upadhyay, Northeast Pediatrics
It’s summer! The sun is shining and children are enjoying the outdoors. They are getting fresh air and exercise, instead of being glued to the television, computer or video games. However, being in the sun can be dangerous. Summertime brings the most intense and longest hours of sun exposure. Wearing sunscreen seems like common sense, but how many people wear the right kind, the right amount, and know when to reapply it?
Sunscreens have definitely helped decrease skin cancer rates. Sunburn during childhood doubles the chances of getting skin cancer! More than $800 million is spent on sunscreen products annually. There are more than 1,800 products available. That can be confusing. How much truth is there in some claims that these products make? Also, recent research suggests that sunscreen may not protect against some of the worst skin cancers, like melanoma. In some cases, there has been an increase in melanoma. Why? It appears that some chemicals in sunscreens release free radicals that increase the risk of cancer. Another possible reason is the poor UVA protection of some sunscreens. Melanoma is one of the deadliest types of skin cancer, and evidence shows that UVB and UVA are responsible for the increased risk. In the past, many sunscreens only concentrated on UVB protection to decrease the chance of sunburns. Sunscreen wearers tend to stay out in the sun longer. Even though they may not get burned, there still is damage to the skin. Sunscreens that contain an SPF 50 or more give a false sense of increased protection, too. So, everyone’s best chance of protection is by staying in shade, using protective clothing, hats, and using sunscreen only in exposed areas.
Here is a quick guide to picking sunscreen that has safe ingredients and good protection. Buy products that are mineral based, not chemical based. These include ingredients such as zinc oxide, titanium oxide, or Mexoryl SX. Avoid chemicals such as oxybenzones and vitamin A. Some ingredients will block the sun from damaging the skin, but when the ingredient breaks down, it releases free radicals, which are considered harmful. Vitamin A is added to many sunscreens because of its anti-aging affects. This is fine for lotions and creams applied at night. However, with combination of Vitamin A and sunlight, there is an increased risk in developing a tumor. Always avoid spray sunscreen due to the chemicals and inhalation risk. SPF of 15-50 is most effective, depending on each person’s skin type.
However, there is still a lot of research being conducted. Sunscreen should be an important part in everyone’s lives, especially for those who live in Florida. Use shade, clothing, and hats for protection. Also, avoid high sun from 10 am to 4 pm. Don’t forget to wear the right sunscreen on the exposed areas. A great resource for picking the right sunscreen is the Environmental Work Group- ewg.org.
Dr. Bhumi Upadhyay, a Board Certified Pediatrician and active member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, graduated from the University of Miami six year Honors Program in Medicine. If you have questions about this article or your child email Dr. Bhumi at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are accepting new patients – please call to get to know the doctor at 526-PEDS