We all know the drill, don’t we – when it’s hot and sunny, slather yourself with sunscreen to prevent sunburn and skin cancer – and it is even recommended to wear SPF if it’s NOT sunny!
But how much does sunscreen prevent cancer, realistically? We decided to have a good look into this and work out the answers for you.
How Much Does Sunscreen Prevent Cancer?
Like most highly-advertised things out there, there is a fair amount of controversy about sunscreen. Does it actually prevent skin cancer, or can it contribute to causing it?
Because sunscreen is such a huge industry, and we have all been taught that it can help to save our lives, there should be no doubt about its efficacy, right?
Well, there have actually only been a few studies to work out how sunscreen actually prevents skin cancer.
It is a very difficult thing to study, because there is such a huge variety of differences in the type of skin that people have, and many other risk factors too.
However, taking all this into account, there is no real doubt that blocking the majority of the sun’s most harmful rays can only be beneficial to our health.
Using sunscreen can protect your skin against the most invasive and damaging of the sun’s rays (that’s UVA, to you and me).
Therefore, whatever your feelings about it, it is definitely advisable to wear sunscreen if you are out and about on a super hot day, or if you work in the sun for prolonged periods of time.
If you’re interested in learning more, this article goes into quite a lot of scientific depth on both sides of the argument.
How Common Is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer, you may already know, is one of our most common cancers. This is hardly surprising, given how much time the average human spends outside in their lifetime.
In the UK alone, almost 50 cases of skin cancer are reported every single day – and this is increasing all the time.
Skin cancer is more common in older people, presumably due to the cumulative effect of the sun’s rays during a lifetime, and it is slightly more common in men.
Rates of this particular type of cancer in the UK have more than doubled in the last decade, and are predicted to continue to rise.
Despite all the doom and gloom, however, survival rates for melanoma is higher than many other types of cancer, with around an 87% survival rate.
This little video gives you some tips on the best ways to avoid skin cancer:
Is SPF 30 Enough To Prevent Skin Cancer?
We all know we’re supposed to wear sunscreen to protect against cancer – but what type should we be using? Is that 5 year old tube of SPF15 going to cut it?
Well, you probably already know the answer to that! Sunscreen has a shelf life, and SPF15 is about the weakest that we should be using.
So throw that old tube away, and invest in a higher SPF – 30 is a good bet, although generally the higher the SPF, the higher the level of protection.
In general, we only apply between 30-50% of what is recommended, meaning that you are probably only about halfway protected, even if you wear it every day.
Because of this, a higher SPF of 30 or even 50 is a good idea, so at least you will be protected even if you are not applying as much as you should.
There is absolutely no harm in going for a higher SPF, especially if you live in a hot area or you are outside for a lot of the time.
If you are a fair skinned person who burns easily, you probably already know that you will need a higher SPF.
Factor 30 is a good choice for most people – it offers protection against the most harmful rays, and it’s not too hard to remember it as part of your skincare regime.
Does Wearing Sunscreen Everyday Prevent Skin Cancer?
There are so many factors involved in who gets skin cancer that it is very hard to say definitively that wearing sunscreen everyday is guaranteed to protect against skin cancer.
We have no desire to be sued, so we’re definitely not going to say that if you wear it every day you will definitely not get skin cancer!
However, evidence does show that regular use of sunscreen, especially for people who get lots of exposure to the sun, can really help to minimise the risk.
Obviously, wearing sunscreen doesn’t mean you should bake yourself to a crisp every day of the year; common sense comes into it too!
Is It OK To Never Wear Sunscreen?
Some people object to sunscreen based on the ingredients; some people are just not used to wearing it; some people forget it every time they leave the house.
Of course, it is up to you whether or not you use sunscreen – no one is going to tell you off for stepping out without it!
It does protect against skin cancer, however, so it is always a good idea to wear it – even if you are only planning on being in the sun for a little while.
If you decide that you are never going to wear sunscreen, you should still take measures to protect yourself from the sun – long sleeves and sticking to the shade are your best options.
It is not recommended to use sunscreen on babies under 6 months old – because they are much smaller and their skin is much thinner, the chemicals in the sunscreen can get inside the body far more easily.
Always keep your newborn shaded and safe from the harsh sun – and leave off on the sunscreen until they are older.
As we all know, skin cancer is a huge problem, and preventing it is the best way to never have to deal with the fallout from this condition.
Hopefully you now have a better idea about how sunscreen can protect you and your family, and hopefully you will remember to bring it on your next beach holiday!