Health & Wellness / Home & Family

Is Sunscreen Important? Yes, Indeed, Say Experts

Use of sunscreen generally offers immense health benefits. Science demonstrates that ultraviolet (UV) rays increase risk of skin cancer and aging. Perthe American Cancer Society, signs of skin damage from exposure to UV rays includes wrinkles, leathery skin, liver spots, actinic keratosis, and solar elastosis. Sunlight is the main source of UV radiation, even though UV rays make up only a small portion of the sun’s rays. In fact, it constitutes about 10% of the total electromagnetic radiation output from the sun, and only about one-third of this penetrates the atmosphere to reach the ground.

There are three main types of UV radiation from the sun. They include UVA, UVB, and UVC rays. Per the FDA, the latter reacts with ozone in the atmosphere and don’t typically reach the ground. Thus, they are not a risk factor of skin cancer. However, UVA rays and UVB rays can reach us. UVA rays account for roughly 95% of the rays from the sun that reach the ground, with 5% attributed to UVB rays. UVB rays have a little more energy than UVA rays and can damage the DNA in skin cells directly. Therefore, they are the main rays that cause sunburns and are believed to cause most skin cancers.

Humans require some exposure to sunlight for our bodies to produce vitamin D naturally. However, the American Cancer Society encourages people to mainly get vitamin D from their diet or vitamin supplements and to protect themselves from harmful ultraviolet rays. Since nearly half of UV radiation is received between 10 am and 4 pm when the sun’s rays are strongest, they suggest the following: for people to limit sun exposure by staying in the shade especially during midday hours, protecting skin with clothing that covers arms and legs, wearing hats to protect the head and neck, wearing sunglasses to block UV rays to protect the eyes and surrounding skin, and using sunscreen to cover exposed parts of the body.  

The main function of broad-spectrum sunscreen is to safeguard people from dangerous ultraviolet exposure. Use of sunscreen is especially important for people who spend a lot of time in the sun or live in areas with a lot of sunlight. Wearing sunscreen can help protect against basal and squamous cell skin cancers that are associated with exposure to sunlight. There is also a link between activities such as sunbathing or getting sunburn and the development of the most serious type of skin cancer, melanoma of the skin. This is the most invasive skin cancer with the highest risk of death. However, it is highly curable if caught early. People should not only refrain from overexposure to the sun’s rays, but folks who spend even limited time in the sun should also have their skin checked regularly by a doctor.

The American Cancer Society points out that they do not determine if things cause cancer, rather they rely on proven science and expert agencies for information. They also work to educate people and clear up common misconceptions. Take these three examples. First, many people believe that tanning beds are harmless. However, The American Cancer Society states that this is untrue. They remind people that tanning beds are not safer than the sun. In fact, just one indoor tanning session can increase the risk of developing cancer per the American Academy of Dermatology Association. Second, some people mistakenly assume that ultraviolet rays are not present on cloudy days. This is another common misconception as people can get sunburn on cloudy days. A third common fallacy is that sunscreen blocks 100 percent of sun’s UVB rays. Truth be told, though extremely helpful, no sunscreen blocks 100 percent of the sun’s rays.

Many people enjoy the look of a suntan. People who use self-tanners can enjoy the benefits of suntanned skin without direct exposure to the sun. However, no matter what color skin or body type you have, it’s a good idea to wear sunscreen offering broad-spectrum protection as self-tanning products do not protect skin from the sun. When it comes down to deciding what type of sun protection factor (SPF) is most suitable, a doctor familiar with your skin’s sensitivity can provide the best advice for you. However, generally, most dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which blocks about 97% of the sun’s UVB rays. Experts say that buying an SPF higher than 50 only offers marginally better protection. For example, 100 SPF is said to block out 99% of UVB rays. They explain that the key to applying SPF is to do it liberally and often to maximize protection.

This article is purely informational and is not intended as medical advice.


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Doyle
9 months ago

Don’t believe it..

Dan W.
9 months ago
Reply to  Doyle

All of my summer jobs were working outside. Didn’t even bother wearing a hat.

Nothing serious so far but I have had my share of liquid nitrogen treatments during the past 10 years.

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