Dermatologist Dispels Dangerous Myths About Sunscreen | The Current - OpenCanuck (2024)

hello I’m Matt Galloway and this is the current podcast how do you keep safe from the Summer sun do you slather on the sunscreen when you go outside for decades it’s been considered the best way to protect yourself from the sun’s Rays although lately you may get a different impression on social media they put these products in there like there’s sunscreen everybody knows sunscreens cause cancer I feel like that’s like a pretty Bas we still use it here’s why I don’t wear sunscreen number one I don’t want to put things on my body that I would eat that I can’t pronounce we’re actually increasing the odds of getting cancer by wearing sunscreen because we’re putting that light that that the sun’s um energy off balance by removing one of the UVS right yes number two vitamin D is manufactured in the body from exposure to the Sun and sunscreen blocks that proc not only you’re wearing it like the sun is cooking that into your body like that’s wild to me medical community is busy dispelling misinformation about sunscreen that’s making the rounds on Tik Tok and other platforms Dr seil Kalia is an associate professor of Dermatology at the University of British Columbia and the national chair of the Canadian Dermatology Association Sun awareness working group he’s in Vancouver good morning Dr Kalia good morning thank you for having me here today thanks for being here what worries you most about this social media Trend that claims that sunscreens actually cause cancer as opposed to help prevent it these claims are quite concerning um we just step it back of why we advocate for the importance of sun protection and we know that getting excessive amounts of sun rays can be definitely harmful and the reason why that is is because short term if you get too much sun rays that causes sunburns and individuals of Darker skin color it is the darkening of blemishes that are quite con concerning that can get quite disfiguring in these individuals and then longterm the big risk of getting too much excessive sun exposure is skin cancer and skin cancer is very common in Canada one in every five individuals will get skin cancer and then even in my clinic a lot of people uh will complain about aging of the skin with too much sun exposure so there’s definitely hazards of getting too much sun exposure and the reason why these type of claims are quite concerning is because they’re not really based on that much science and so it’s important to get that information that’s correct to the general public about why we need to protect our skin from too much sun exposure as opposed to the knowledge that there is a tie between sun exposure and and cancer rates that is scientifically proven correct it’s it’s very scientifically proven in fact uh about 90% of all skin cancers can be attributed to too much sun exposure UV raise so yeah there’s no doubt that that’s based on science that getting too much sun exposure can be dangerous are age groups or populations that are more vulnerable than others do you think with the Sun raise and something that we did with the Canadian Dermatology Association is that we have different groups of skin cancers one is melanoma that tends to cause the most deaths in terms of skin cancers and in melanoma it is actually the childhood sun exposure that people get or during their youth years and Adolescence as well that you get all these sun rays during that age but then the skin cancer actually presents later on in life during your adulthood years or even when you’re older and adults and so really the importance is getting that messaging to younger individuals when they’re not thinking about cancer that we need to protect ourselves from excessive Sun exposures and sunburns I was surprised to learn that the majority of Canadians don’t use sunscreen can you talk about what the numbers are like you said one and five but are they on the rise of people who are getting skin cancer the rates of skin cancers are uh on the rise and the rates might be increasing just to the fact that we do have an older age population and so this is what is concerning that we do know that what causes skin cancer and the skin cancer rates are on the rise how treatable is skin cancer so majority of skin cancers if they’re detected early and that’s something that we tried doing the medical community is advocating for individuals to be aware of what to look for for skin cancer and the good thing is with this majority of skin cancers we do detect early and can be surgically excised cut out and so they are curable when they’re detected early but there are forms that could be quite deadly yeah that’s the thing with skin cancer being so common as one in every five individuals will get it the fact that it’s such a common cancer there definitely are types of skin cancers that can spread to other parts of the body and can be deadly given everything you you’ve just said why do you think this anti-s sunscreen movement is growing every periodical time in um with sunscreens and sun protection we do get some challenges and uh that is part of science things that are being questioned and and sometimes this can be due to misinformation and so sometimes um the fact that skin cancer rates are increasing people might ask okay we have been using sunscreens and so is there something that we’re not doing correct and I think there are other factors of why skin cancers are on the rise and so we just look at the facts of what maybe have made people think about the concerns of sunscreens and it really comes down to I think in this movement is being the fact that there has been reports of people getting allergic reactions to sunscreens in the past and so then the problem is there might be a small amount of truth that a minority percent of people can get allergic reactions that’s 1 to 2% and those are not serious reactions in the sense that um you know we know cancer can kill people and that that is definitely serious and that’s one in five individuals that will get cancer and so we have to look at the pros and cons of uh the use of sunscreen and sun protection and there’s no doubt that with skin cancer being mostly attributed to Too Much Sun Ray that that is what’s concerning and that’s why we need to remind ourselves of the importance of sun protection so I’d like to go through some of these examples of things we’ve heard on social media some of these claims and you know have you either agree or debunk them um so let’s start with this we’re in the sun like cooking with chemicals like oxy Benzene polymers and petroleum parabens and paba so then our Skin’s cellular respiration process is inhibited from inhaling oxygen and exhaling toxins and then as we soak up the sun we’re these chemicals are baking into our bodies and then the main ingredient that makes sunblock or sunscreen work is called oxy Benzene and that is a powerful free radical generator that is classified as non-carcinogenic until it is exposed to sunlight oh my God crazy we live in an insane world so these claims about sunscreen ingredients often comes up is it true Dr Kalia that oxy benzone can cause cancer yeah so oxybenzone is one of the type of uh filters that we have available in sunscreens and it’s one of our organic filters it is an effective blocker or absorber of high energy UV photons and so this is why it’s probably getting the most challenged it is uh very effective and very common to be used in sunscreens in the past the um short answer is no it it does not cause cancer you know these are filters that are Health Canada approved and they’re safe and effective and so this information this theoretical concept that uh was being suggested about it being promoting free ratical formation in fact we know it’s the opposite right because Sun raay itself is actually what uh causes uh generation of free radicals and uh also DNA mutations and that’s what links us to developing uh skin cancer you get too much Sun raise so essentially it’s the opposite where the oxybenzone filters are blocking out these harmful UV filters so that’s the very element that actually keeps keeps us safe when we’re exposed to Sun yeah exactly for those individuals that are concerned we have to remind ourselves okay fine if you don’t want to use the oxybenzone filters the good thing with sunscreens is that we do have other options of filters that people can use what about the more General claims that sunscreen is quote skin poison that that many chemicals in sunscreens are toxic or absorb through the skin see this is this is one of those misinformation and definitely is a myth uh I think the word chemicals sometimes people find that that sounds harmful in itself but we have to remind ourselves that chicals are around us all the time we breathe oxygen and uh we drink water right so we do need chemicals in fact in these ones right here um sunscreen uh the filters that are available and these are all chemicals we have to look at the pros and cons of when we are applying these and essentially what the sunscreens are doing they’re they’re being applied on top of our skin and acting as a filter to block those harmful UV ray and that’s essentially what we’re trying to do here is block those harmful effects of UV that we talked about and reason why U Can Be hazardous especially with cancer and so that’s the way it is actually working now there are so many different kinds of sunblock I wonder if there are any chemicals that you think uh in sunscreens that you would recommend us avoiding I I think once again we look back at that these are the filters that are available in Canada are Health Canada approved right and also FDA approved as well so these have gone through rigorous uh safety and effective uh testing and so the way I look at filters there they to we divide into organic and mineral filters these all are being safe and effective and if somebody just is weary about a type of filter that they’re concerned about the good thing is that we have many different options and so they can find one that that’s right for them here’s another Claim by an influencer who says not to wear sunscreen you still don’t want to get burned by the Sun so slow exposure to the sun allows you to build the melanin and protect the skin the natural way is that true that we can build up protection to the Sun natur you know with all these uh claims there might be a small bit of Truth in the fact that as we do get sun exposure our skin does probably increase the melanin but the problem is that uh especially individuals at risk of developing skin cancer in that process when you’re trying to get that uh increased melanine you are harming your skin you are causing DNA mutations and those generation of reactive oxygen species and so therefore you are putting yourself at a risk of developing skin cancer by getting uh too much of those sun rise so here’s one more message that I’m hoping that you can talk to us about people lather themselves up and then they go in the like they literally like Dump Dump Dump Dump slap slather go ined in the water like in Hawaii they literally are Bing sun because it’s affecting the fish’s reproduction it’s destroying the coral reefs and we’re coating ourselves in this stuff what is it doing to us what scientific evidence is there about sunscreen harming fish or bleaching coral reefs so with that uh story with the coral reefs we fully don’t know we know that on the global level that coral reefs are Vanishing in some areas and this can be attributed mostly to climate change um in terms of laboratory data when some of these sunscreen filters are used at very very high dosages they have been shown to perhaps cause damage to coral reefs but then it comes down to what we call toxicological assessments that can be done and that’s the gold standard assessment to see if this is actually causing damage to environment and these are still being done currently but um when these are being done it shows that the filters in the waters that are close to Coral Reef damage the concentration of the filters are about 1,000 times less than the concentration that would need to be causing damage to the coral reefs So currently with a current evidence it’s actually thought that the sunscreen filters on their own are not probably the primary source of causing coral reef uh damage but for those people that are concerned about that then this goes back to the fact that we do have sunscreen filters such as our mineral filters that have shown Not to cause coral reef damage at all even even in laboratory data so let’s talk about best practices then what should we be looking for in a sunscreen I just want to step it one step back in terms of like we do we’re doing a lot of focus on sunscreens of course because we want to debunk these bits but then in terms of sun protection it goes down to avoiding sun exposure during peak hours and that can be from 10 to 2 or 11 to 3 and then what we do is we try seeking shade and wearing um and wearing protective clothing as well and then it comes down to wearing sunscreen so the the important part is you have to remind yourself just because you’re applying sunscreen you don’t want to be getting more sun exposure so it’s important still to do the above steps before you go down to using that sunscreen but then when you’re choosing that sunscreen it’s important to choose a sunscreen with an adequate SPF level so at least a 30 we recommend and something that’s broad spectrum so with both ubb and uba protection so it’s labeled with broad spectrum on that sunscreen bottle and would you have different advice on what sunscreen to use based on the tone and color of your skin in in some individuals especially in Darker skin individuals they may want to go with tinted sunscreens and so these have more of rather than having a white color to them they can have more of a color to the sunscreen and so therefore they’re more cosmetically appealing so we do have those options for people that don’t like looking very white or pale when they apply their sunscreens obviously you and others have shown concern about these erroneous messages misinformation about sunscreen and yet as we said earlier the majority of Canadians do not use sunscreen whose job is it do you think not only to correct the misinformation out there but to encourage Canadians to do this uh to protect themselves it is really a collaborative effort uh and something that in Canadian Dermatology Association we try advocating this and through either public messaging or through tailored messaging um different Society such as Canadian Society Canadian Cancer Society has also advocated for this um even at uh Child Care Centers and public schools um there are reminders that are sent about the importance of protecting one’s uh skin from sun exposure and the application of sunscreen so it is a multiple collaborative effort in terms of trying to reduce sun exposure uh to prevent those hazards of excessive sun exposure so final bit of advice you have a patient in your office and asked about advice on this what what’s the bottom line yeah the bottom line is that we know that skin cancer is very common there’s no doubt that there is risks of getting too much sun exposure and so when the sun exposure rays are quite strong to protect yourselves from the excessive sun exposure not getting sunburnt get into the shade thank you thank you Dr Kalia for your help thank you very much Dr seil Kalia is an associate professor of Dermatology at the University of British Columbia and the national chair of the Canadian Dermatology Association Sun awareness working group

Dangerous misinformation about sunscreen is spreading on social media, even as rates of skin cancer continue to rise. Dermatologist Dr. Sunil Kalia applies the facts about SPF.

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