The study also determined how ultraviolet rays managed to damage DNA in skin cells. Until this study, how this happened hadn’t been well understood. The researchers were able to determine the sun’s radiation ends up harming a critical gene called TP53. This gene normally works to help heal broken DNA, and prevent tumor progression, but when harmed with radiation doesn’t work as effectively. While sunscreens with high SPF protection helped to limit the harm to this gene, it wasn’t able to eliminate it. In the study, SPF 50 sunscreen helped protect mice which developed fewer tumors than unprotected mice, but some of the protected mice still developed the disease.
The results from the research came with both good and bad news for those who use sunscreen. Richard Marais, the director of the Cancer Research U.K. Manchester Institute, and lead author of the study notes, “It’s the first experimental evidence that sunscreen actually protects you from melanoma, but it also shows that it doesn’t offer complete protection. You need to use other strategies as well.”
Doctors actually suggest a three-step approach when it comes to protecting yourself from the sun, with sunscreen being the third of these steps. The best defense against the sun’s harmful rays is to stay out of the sun whenever possible. Try to stay indoors during the hottest portion of the day, and plan activities which keep you away from direct sunlight whenever possible.
The second step is to protect yourself from the sun when you do have to go outside. You should seek shaded areas whenever possible, wear a wide-brimmed hat or use an umbrella to shade yourself when you’re walking around, and wear clothes which provide protection against the sun. Cover up as much as possible. This means wearing long sleeves and long pants, along with shoes which cover your feet.
The third step of sun protection is to use a strong SPF sunscreen. It’s important to remember that sunscreen will not last the entire day, and it should be reapplied every two hours to be effective. It doesn’t matter the strength of the SPF, you still need to reapply it every couple of hours. You should also put on more than you think you need since studies have showed most people only put on 25% of the amount that they should. If you know someone who doesn’t like to put on enough sunscreen, remind them it’s the most effective way to prevent skin from aging.
No matter how much money you spend on sun protection, it will be much less than the cost of actually getting skin cancer. Look at these costs as an insurance policy to reduce the risks of you getting it. The more we learn about how much the sun can damage our skin, the more important it is to protect your skin as much as possible for both health and financial reasons.
For those of you who have teenage children who enjoy going to the beach and laying out in the sun as much as possible, take the time to show them the following video. The sun doesn’t seem like something which poses much danger to you when you’re young, but getting even a single bad sunburn when you’re young can greatly increase your chances of getting skin cancer.