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The dark truth about sunscreens

Sunscreens are known to shield you from sunburns and skin cancer. But a recent study exposed by the US-based Environment Working Group says that rather than protecting you from the sun, sunscreens can cause skin cancer. Debarati Mukherjee discusses surprising truths that you are probably unaware of when it comes to your closest guard-the sunscreen.

The first sunscreens were developed for soldiers to protect them from sunburns, but these days it is different. Most brands claim that sunscreens will protect their consumers. Kolkata based dermatologist Dr. Ridhima Ghosh says, “Sunscreens are basically responsible for blocking ultraviolet radiation which causes cancer. But unfortunately like all devices and applications it is effective only for a specific number of hours, but most of us who use this application tend to spend more hours in the sun than ones who do not use a sunscreen. When you are spending more hours in the sun after the application’s duration is over, your chances of getting skin cancer is high.”

Most experts claim that sunscreens prevent skin cancer. Dr. Ghosh explains, “A sunscreen cream can prevent skin cancer. But we need to know that just the way there are various infections, skin cancer also has various types and formations. One variety of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), which is a treatable form of skin cancer, can be prevented if sunscreen cream is applied on the exposed areas. Unfortunately, other types of skin cancMost sunscreen brands vouch for complete sun protection, but Dr. Ghosh denies this. She says, “Sun protection means protecting you from the harmful rays of the sun, especially UVA and UVB rays. However, it is interesting to note that UVB can penetrate only in the outer epidermal cells and the skin can be shielded with sunscreen application. UVA rays are the most dangerous. Their penetration power is much higher than that of er, such as basal cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma occur more frequently and cannot be prevented by sunscreen usage.”UVB rays. It can go deeper inside the skin to your tissues and directly interact with your DNA which is mutated and forms malignant melanoma, which is not only dangerous but almost incurable to a certain extent.”

It is also surprising to note that sunscreens can block certain bodily functions. Dr. Ghosh explains, “The basic source of our body producing Vitamin D is sunshine. And the application of sunscreen primarily blocks this vitamin formation.” And how important is Vitamin D for our body? “It strengthens the bones and the entire immune system, thereby guarding you from quick and frequent illness. Moreover it also shields the body from various forms of cancer like breast cancer, colon cancer, kidney cancer and ovarian cancer,” states Dr. Ghosh.

On one hand sunscreens block certain vitamin formation, on the other certain vitamins and ingredients present in it accelerates the cancerous growth in cells. Dr. Ghosh describes, “Most sunscreens contain vitamin A. The reason is that it acts as an antioxidant and helps in anti-ageing. This is absolutely fine when you are applying vitamin A- rich creams and lotions when you are indoors. But with sun exposure, vitamin A mutates with the DNA and damages it, leading to a carcinogenic effect.”

However the good news is, not all sunscreens are carcinogenic. Dr. Ghosh recommends, “Opt for ones which are mineral rich as they block the sun rays without affecting your system highly. You can also check for sunscreens rich in components called Mexoryl SX, or Tinosorb S and M and avobenzone. However, make sure you do not pick one with oxybenzone as it is very harmful for your skin.”

Author: Debarati Mukherjee

Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan


20.06.2013 | 9:31