On the never-ending list of stuff that's going to kill you, time is totally number one, but the sun, they say, is certainly somewhere near the top.
Your chances of setting skin cancer increase, like, every time you go outside, and if you happen to have fair skin, well, how unfortunate for you.
And I understand that if you get more than five sunburns in your lifetime, your risk of getting melanoma doubles.
So you wear sunscreen. Right? Well, to top it off, a class action lawsuit was launched against five sunscreen manufacturers last March alleging that they've overstated the efficacy of their product. We're watching to see how that shakes down.
Then there's the issue of what kind of screen to choose. Spokespeople in the health food industry say they allow products in stores if chemical preservatives are only .01 to 1.3 per cent of ingredients. Most commercial products start at 3 per cent and go much higher, so it would seem wise to start with more natural formulas. You should know, though, that dermatologists swear by Parsol 1789.
Are there any other things people can do to protect themselves?
What the experts say
"There are things you can do to protect yourself internally. Tomatoes can help protect against sun damage. They contain lycopene, which has been shown to reduce redness and skin cell damage from UV rays. One of the best things to eat daily is blueberries . They have the highest antioxidant capacity, and antioxidants help eliminate waste from the body. Vitamin-C-rich foods prevent the breakdown of collagen, which improves the look of skin. Oranges , of course, are high in vitamin C, but broccoli actually has more. Fish oil containing EPA [an essential fatty acid] is an anti-inflammatory and is photo-protective."
JOEY SHULMAN , naturopath, Toronto
"Sunscreen should be used in conjunction with reducing sun exposure in general and using shade and clothing to avoid the sun. Sunscreens are good if used properly but are not magic shields. People use half to a quarter of the amount they are supposed to. Sunscreens are not all the same. Some ingredients do not provide broad-spectrum coverage, while others do. A sunscreen that only contains benzophenone, a UVA blocker, will not be as effective as others. Ingredients to look for are Parsol 1789 and Mexoryl . A new ingredient called Tinosorb that will be coming out in the next year will also be broad-spectrum. We recommend at least 30 SPF, because people don't put enough on."
JASON RIVERS , professor of dermatology, University of British Columbia
"Several natural plant oils show promise in UV protection. Sea buckthorn oil will absorb UVB rays, as will rosa mosquita and meadowfoam seed oil . However, their ability to prevent sunburn and sun damage is limited, and where extended sun protection is required it's safest to use a sunblock with zinc or titanium dioxide . Plant oils will very effectively limit the damage that stresses like exposure to the sun cause to our skin. Rosa rubiginosa , a natural source of trans-retinoic acid (Retin-A), used daily will help prevent premature aging of the skin. Pomegranate seed oil inhibits free-radical damage to the skin and is being researched for its cancer-reversing effects. Helichrysum and German camomile essential oils regenerate the skin and heal inflammation that causes skin damage."
BONITA BARTH , Essential Botanicals
"The best way to protect your skin is to avoid the sun at peak times . Lotions may be petroleum-based or use sodium laurel sulfates, and there is some controversy about whether these cause cancer. Natural options are vegetable-oil-based or glycerine-based and do not contain solvents."
EEVON LING , naturopath, Toronto
"Most sunscreens absorb UVA poorly, although there are exceptions, like micronized titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. UVA overdoses are the main cause of melanoma. The most common UVA absorber is oxybenzone . A 3 per cent concentration has a protection factor of about 2.6 even if the sunscreen is labelled 50 SPF. This corresponds to 35 per cent transmission of UVA. [For it to work,] a 100-pound, 5-foot-2 woman wearing a bikini would have to apply 1 ounce of cream. A 5-ounce container would be quickly exhausted. Most sunscreens expose the skin to large overdoses of UVA, and by absorbing UVB well they hide the UVB-triggered reddening of the skin that could warn the user of UVA overexposure."
CEDRIC F. GARLAND , department of family and preventive medicine, University of California, San Diego