Richard G. Petty, MD

Sunscreens Are a Last… Resort

We talked recently about the ongoing discussion about whether sunscreens are harmful, and perhaps even the “cause” of skin tumors. The theory doesn’t make much sense.

And now there is a new report from Switzerland published in the Lancet, suggesting that thick fabrics such as denim and wool offer the best protection against the sun’s rays, while traditional thinner summer fabrics such as cotton and linen are much less effective. I can attest to that, having been burned through a cotton shirt on a cloudy day in Singapore.

The researchers reviewed 500 studies and recommended staying out of the sun, or wearing thick clothes and hats. They say that using sunscreen is the least effective option, and should really be seen as a last line of defense against the potentially harmful rays of the sun.

Obviously we need to be practical: living in the Southern United States, there is no way that we could work outside wearing our winter woollies.

There are some lightweight clothes that offer up to 50+ UPF (ultraviolet protection factor). Another good option is to wash clothes in a specialty detergent that boosts the UPF of your everyday clothes for up to 20 washes.

So sunscreens it will have to be.

Sadly many people do not use them properly.

Here are the rules for using sunscreen:

  • Use plenty: incorrectly applied SPF 30 is about the same as SPF 15-20
  • Apply it before being exposed to the sun: most sunscreens work by reacting chemically with the skin, so they don’t start absorbing damaging rays immediately and should be applied generously at least 20 minutes before going outside to reach maximum protection
  • Reapply after swimming or sweating
  • Try and avoid being outside between 11AM and 3PM
  • Reduce you exposure to an absolute minimum if you have a personal of family history of skin cancer
  • Make sure that you do not have any illnesses that may make you photosensitive
  • Be extra careful if you are on any medications that can increase your sensitivity to the sun

If you are in any doubt about any lesions on your skin, have them checked by an expert.

It can be fun in the sun and nobody wants to be a killjoy.

But my own mother had a melanoma in her forties, almost certainly at a site that had burned repeatedly when she was a teenager. And for people who say that these cancers are caused by sunscreens, I’d like them to explain how a young man lost an eye after developing an ocular melanoma. I have it on good authority that he had never applied sunscreen to his eyeball.

There is little doubt that some people are more sensitive to the sun’s rays than others, and if you have a family history, your may have the high risk genes.

Enjoy the sun, it can do you a lot of psychological as well as some physical good.

Just please be careful out there.

“May the sun bring you new energies by day. May the moon softly restore you by night. May the rain wash away any worries you may have. May gentle breezes refresh your soul and all the days of your life. May you walk gently through the world and know its beauty.”
–Unknown Author

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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