Skin Cancer, Sunscreen Controversy


My better half thought I had some spots a dermatologist should check out.  The Dr. found what he called a pre-cancerous spot on my cheek and froze it with liquid nitrogen.  I’m not sure it was necessary, but he’s the expert.  He also scooped out a spot on my scalp.  I feel like I’m going to pieces.

I did learn something important.  I used to wear SPF 8 suntan lotion, figuring that would be 8 times better than nothing.  However, the Dr. told me that low SPF suntan lotion only protects us from the UVA rays, letting the UVB rays through.  It’s the UVB rays which cause skin cancer, so by putting on lotion which kept me from burning, I actually may have spent more time in the sun letting the UVB rays do their damage.

Update:  I went online and am now thoroughly confused.  It appears my understanding of UVA and UVB is reversed.  It’s unlikely the Dr. gave me incorrect information.  What’s more likely is I had a difficult time listening while being scalped and froze.  I’ve always heard someone besides the patient needs to be there to listen.  It is very difficult for the patient to listen.

There seems to be some debate about all sunscreen.  Some of the ingredients may be carcinogenic and in this sunscreen photo it appears that more ultraviolet light is absorbed by the skin when sunscreen is used.  I don’t know what to think.  Readers, weigh in with your comments.

Looking at the photo above, I see my skin has aged.  I don’t feel terribly old, approaching 45 years, but I realize I’ve probably spent many more hours in the summer sun than almost anyone reading this.  I plan on continuing to wear long-sleeves and pants and a broad-brimmed hat which I’ve been doing for the past fifteen years.  I’ll probably put SPF 30 sunscreen on my face when I’m doing tractor-work, sitting in the summer sun.

4 Responses to Skin Cancer, Sunscreen Controversy

  1. Chris Keller says:

    I am not an expert–not even well-informed about UVA v UVB rays and sunscreen.

    What I was more interested in was your reaction to the threat of skin cancer. I’d be scared. You?

    You also say that you see your skin has aged . . . You are at the point where you are confronting your mortality–as you confront this scary skin thing. You are experiencing a wake-up call: it is all-good.

    So, if you put on SPF 8, you may think you are protected (x8), and thus you would spend MORE time in the sun, letting harmful rays do more damage? I don’t think so. You have a job that demands a certain amount of time (in the sun). Farming is a high-risk job in this and in other ways–yes? You have accepted these risks–yes? All you can do is what you say you already do: wear a brimmed hat and long sleeves. You may now up your SPF value. Well-enough. You cannot be entirely risk-free.

    You are sensible. That is, you are doing your best, given the information you have/have had.

    It is wise to confront your mortality. It makes sense to be scared. You have done everything you can do. You have done the “right” things. Tell yourself you deserve to have peace about this. You DO!

  2. Sharon says:

    Interesting. Very confusing. I don’t claim to understand any of it, however, covering up as you do when in the sun for hours and hours, that’s the best thing you can do to protect against sun damaged/aged skin. Of course the research says that we need some sun, so perhaps 15-20 minutes every couple of days on parts of your body would probably be healthy. Long after I stopped chasing the sun at about age 49 is when I was dx w a BCC on my nose. It was disappointing. I spent zillions of years deliberately in Florida and California sun, from an early age. And boy does it show. Long sleeves and pants would have made a huge difference. I’d say if you are getting many hours of direct sun on your face, using an SPF total block (all A/B rays) would be a good idea. I know rays can penetrate clothing, but not sure how that compares to direct. I didn’t say anything earth shattering; I think you’re doing the right thing.

  3. Anne Guarnieri says:

    It is confusing-I have a son with a white patch on his chin which doesn’t have any protective pigment. I encourage him to eat a lot of greens and cruciferous vegetables. From what I’ve read vegetables provide a natural skin protectant. Sugar feeds cancer cells so it’s best for people to keep their intake very low. Paleo has a lot of benefits!

  4. Update, Summer 2019: Still wearing long sleeves and broad brimmed hat. No longer wearing sunscreen unless going to the beach to avoid a burn.
    Drink a lot of coffee and not seldom alcohol. I read that alcohol and sun is not good.
    God willing, I’ll continue to give updates for what its worth, n = 1.

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