Sun Scream... so Slip Slop Slap!
Well, we're in the heat of summer (haha, pun intended) and despite everything we know about skin cancer and like issues, many of us still take the warnings for granted and don't make a positive intervention.
I am sure that many of you will know about the newspaper articles floating around that warn that too much slip-slip-slapping can have adverse effects (they are always coming up with evidence that contradicts existing evidence for everything...), but the reality is that this is indeed not a common issue. The majority of the top 10 leading causes of death in Australia are due to lifestyle diseases and skin cancer is a prime example of that; it is such a rampant disease despite it being noncommunicable.
These cases far outweigh those of Vitamin D deficiency (for those not in the know, this is caused by deprivation of sun exposure) which are minimal in comparison. In fact according to Jeff Dunn, the executive director of the Queensland Cancer Fund, the results of the vitamin D studies do not apply in Queensland. "Simply put, everyone in Queensland gets sufficient sun exposure in the course of daily life to receive sufficient UV for the production of vitamin D. We have the highest rate of skin cancer in the world and 300 Queenslanders die every year from skin cancers," Dunn said. "With skin cancers accounting for 80 per cent of all cancers, and sun exposure established as a major cause of these, it would be irresponsible to recommend people spend more time in the sun, unprotected."
My personal take-home message from all of this is that whilst a few minutes' natural exposure to sunlight every day is beneficial, too much sun (as is too much of anything, really) can be harmful. So remember, people... Slip Slop Slap! (and Slurp!... on water, of course!). Play it safe and have a great summer!
British research says sunscreens could increase the risk of skin cancer because while they protect against sunburn they did not block out harmful UV rays which cause the disease.
---> CANCER COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA says:
Sunscreen should never be the first line of defence. It should be used to complement other measures such as the use of shade, protective clothing, hats and sunglasses .
Vitamin D deficiency could become an issue if people do not spend enough time in the sun.
---> CANCER COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA says:
Most Australians get enough exposure to create normal vitamin D levels by going about their daily activities, even if they are wearing hat, shirt and sunscreen. All sunburn is potentially damaging. Vitamin D deficiency, which can lead to osteoporosis, fractures, bone and joint pain, muscle and bone weakness, would be a problem in small sections of the population.
What Sun Exposure Does to The Body
Brain - Sunshine acts as a catalyst for the brain to secrete chemicals known as endorphins. These are the body's natural opiates, producing a feeling of general wellbeing.
Eyes - Can lead to cataracts, other eye problems that can lead to squinting and blindness.
Hair - Hair growth increases in summer, as warmth stimulates its natural growth rate. Its colour may change when sunbaking and the sun can cause it to dry out.
Lips - Our lips have only three to five layers of skin cells compared with 15 elsewhere on the body. The red margin of the lips contains no sweat or oil glands, which is why lips dry and become cracked when sunbaking.
Skin - The outer layer of the skin thickens and becomes leathery due to sun exposure. Ultraviolet light and the free radicals it produces can cause the skin to sag and wrinkle. Some dermatologists say 80 per cent of wrinkles are sun-induced. Freckles also result from facial exposure to the sun. The most dangerous skin disease is skin cancer. It is caused by short, over-exposed dosage of sun and the most common place for skin cancer to develop is on any exposed body parts such as the arms and legs.
Nails - Nails become weak and brittle when they dry out through exposure to sun. However, the warming sun's rays also increases blood flow to the skin to keep the body cool and this, in turn, stimulates nails to grow more quickly in summer.
Bones - The sun can make bones stronger and less likely to fracture because exposing the skin to sun naturally produces vitamin D, essential for the normal development of our bones and teeth.
Heart - Sunbaking increases the heart's efficiency. As the body atempts to cool there is incrased blood flow to the skin, which results in an increased output of blood from the heart. Some studies have gauged this increase at about 29 per cent.
Kidney - Excess time in the sun can put a strain on the kidneys because of possible dehydration as more water is lost through the skin.
Feet - There are about 250,000 sweat glands in your feet, excreting up to 250mL of moisture a day, so it is important to choose summer shoes that will let your feet breathe. Excess sweating can lead to fungal infections such as athlete's foot.
Blood - Sun can cause low blood pressure because the body loses fluids and salt, leading to lightheadedness and dehydration. Ultraviolet light also converts cholesterol in the blood to vitamin D, so sun exposure can lower cholesterol levels in the blood. The sun's rays also help to lower the concentration of glucose in the blood (a similar effect to the hormone insulin) and so may have a role in preventing diabetes.
Immune system - After six hours in the sun, the immune system is likely to be down to a third of its normal activity, further increasing its vulnerability to skin infections and skin cancer. Scientists also believe that sunburn can alter the distribution and function of disease-fighting white blood cells for up to 24 hours after exposure to the sun.
Recommended sun protection measures:
1. Take particular care between 10am and 3pm, when UV radiation levels are at their highest.
2. Make use of shade.
3. Wear protective clothing - hat, sunglasses (with UV protection), long-sleeved shirts.
4. Use broad spectrum, water-resistant SPF 30+ sunscreen (30+ would be a minimum... I believe that they have SPF 100+ now)
The Courier Mail, Monday October 20 2003
The Courier Mail, Saturday January 3 2004
For More Information (and statistics)
Cancer Council of Australia
Queensland Cancer Fund