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Sunscreens Overview

Sun avoidance and regular sunscreen use are widely promoted by organizations and individuals interested in cancer prevention. However, 70% of those who participated in a beach survey were on the beach to get or to maintain a suntan. Although they stayed on the beach for an average of 4 hours, only half were using sunscreen.

On the mountains, and despite past sunburn experience, skiers often do not use sunblock. A springtime survey of skiers in Alberta showed that only two thirds were using sunscreen, and of those using a sunscreen, one third were sunburned at the time of survey.

There appears to be some confusion about the messages people are getting about sunscreens and why they’re so important. Some use sunscreens to prevent sunburn, whereas others use sunscreens to improve sun tanning. Some wish to avoid the wrinkling associated with sun exposure, and others believe that sunscreens prevent all types of skin cancer, yet others seem to believe that they can use sunscreens in order to prolong their time in the sun.

Why Use Sunscreens?

  • Prevents sun burns
  • Prevents photodamaged skin (aged look – brown spots, wrinkles)
  • Prevents actinic keratosis and perhaps squamous cell cancers
  • May prevent other skin cancers

Adapted from an article by David I. McLean, MD, and Richard Gallagher, MA.


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