Bajillion SPF or clothing?

Was recently asked if it was better to use SPF 50 lotion all day or to just have kids wear clothes when they’re in the sun.  By “better”, I mean which is better protection against skin cancer?themonk.jpg

The answer is clothing.  Clothes are always better than sunscreen no matter what the SPF rating.  Here’s some other surprising facts:

– sunscreen has never really been proven – by scientific means – to prevent skin cancer.  We know it stops certain kinds of UV light, but no one can say for sure that it prevents skin cancer. 

– not all clothing is sun-proof.  Especially many types of swimsuits.  If they don’t specifically say they’re sunproof on the label – and you aren’t paying an arm and a leg for the fact- they probably aren’t.  Of course, hats and thick clothing do block sun rays of all types.  But don’t just automatically assume that since your kid is wearing a bathing suit or thin shirt that s/he is protected from the sun.

– there’s two major types of UV light: UV-A and UV-B.  If you sit around all day in UV-A light, you’ll get super-tan and never really end up burnt.  It’s UV-B that causes the burns.  So, traditionally, suntan lotions stopped UV-B to keep people from burning and yet still allow them to tan to the point of looking like they’re from a different race.  Lately, it’s been figured out that UV-A light actually does change a person’s genetics…deep in the skin where the melanocytes reside.  This is not DNA you want to be messing with.  Of the skin cancers, melanoma is the really bad one and the one to be most feared.  Given that UV-A is the kind of light that causes the best tans, can you guess what kind of light is used almost exclusively in suntanning parlors?  That’s right.  UV-A.  Ask any dermatologist and they’ll freak out about tanning beds.  They’re a HUGE risk for skin cancer.  The best option if you want to be brown?  Use the lotions.  They’re getting less orange every day.

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