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  • BYU Pharmacy

Myth-busting Monday: Should I wear sunscreen?

You’ve probably heard a million times. Maybe it was your mom, or a teacher, or in an ad. If you go outside, wear sunscreen or you’ll get skin cancer. The use of sunscreen as a necessary protection against the sun’s deadly rays is a commonly accepted fact, one that we use to justify the aggressive application of SPF 1,000,000 sunscreen to ourselves and our children.

The problem is, our love affair with sunscreen might be killing us.

While sunscreen in the right quantities can help prevent skin cancer, it can also lead to skin cancer and other problems such as the rickets (What are the rickets? It’s the disease that Tiny Tim had in A Christmas Carol)

Why Sunscreen is Bad

Sunscreen is meant to protect us from UV rays, the high frequency beams of ultraviolet light emitting from the sun that are a part of natural sunlight. In too great of quantities, these rays can cause melanoma and a host of other issues in human beings.

However, UV rays also play a critical role in how our bodies produce Vitamin D. Getting correct amounts of Vitamin D has been linked to a decrease in lower disease rates for cancers including breast, prostate, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and various autoimmune diseases. However, since sunscreen blocks UV light, the critical component to Vitamin D production in the body, it can actually cause Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a host of issues, including osteoporosis and cancer.

What to do about it

Based on research, researchers and doctors recommend that we skip the sunscreen and try to get 25-30 minutes of natural sunlight every day. This will give our bodies enough sunlight to produce the necessary amounts of Vitamin D, while still ensuring that we aren’t in the sunlight too long. While doing this, try to avoid exposing your face to the sun and focus more on your arms and legs. It’s important to take into account that people with darker complexions will need more time outside to absorb a sufficient amount of sunlight while people with lighter complexions should spend a little less time in the sun. Finally, try to schedule your sun-soaking time for the morning or evening, and avoid the midday. During midday hours, the sun is at its strongest, and the rays are probably a bit more than your body actually needs.

Should I Use Sunscreen?

Despite everything you just read, you probably still need sunscreen. Skin cancer is still heavily linked to sunburns, which means that if you’re getting burned when you go outside, you probably need to apply some sunscreen. Just make sure you get a few minutes of natural sunlight before you decide to apply some protection.

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