In India, it is estimated that 14.5 lakh people are living with cancer, with over 7 lakh new cases being registered every year and 5,56,400 deaths which are said to be cancer related. An estimated 71 per cent of all cancer related deaths are occurring in the age group between 30 to 69 years.
Below are some of the most common myths about sun exposure and protection.
MYTH: It’s important to spend plenty of time in the sun to get enough vitamin D.
FACT: Your skin does make vitamin D when exposed to the sun’s rays, but you don’t need to spend a long time outside. Formation of previtamin D3 and vitamin D3 is maximal between 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. of the day during the entire year (median 11.5% and 10.2% respectively at 12.30 p.m.). How long you stay in the Sun depends on several factors, including how dark your skin is and the time of day. Most people will make enough vitamin D by getting between 5 – 30 minutes of sun twice a week without sunscreen, according to the National Library of Medicine. After just a few minutes, it’s recommended that you apply sunscreen.
MYTH: If it’s cloudy outside, I don’t need sunscreen.
FACT: You still get sun exposure on cloudy days. The UV rays can penetrate some clouds, so the sun can damage your skin and you can even get a sunburn in cloudy, cool weather. Use sunscreen (at least SPF 15 or higher) even when the sun is hidden by clouds. Even waterproof sunscreen loses its effectiveness within 90 minutes if you sweat or swim, so reapply it often.
MYTH: My makeup has sunscreen, so I don’t need to put any more on my face.
FACT: Makeup with sunscreen that’s at least SPF 15 is helpful, but you do need to reapply sunscreen after a couple of hours in the sun and after swimming or sweating. Same for lip balm with sunscreen. Application of sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 reduces the UVB penetration into epidermis by > 95%, thereby limiting the production of previtamin D3 by the skin. With age the cutaneous 7-DHC levels decline, reducing the skin’s capacity to produce vitamin D3.
MYTH: I’ll only be outside for an hour so I don’t need to worry about getting too much sun.
FACT: The sun’s rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes, so plan ahead and take protective steps before you go outside, even if for a short time.
MYTH: I’m wearing a baseball cap and a t-shirt so I’ll be okay.
FACT: A baseball cap doesn’t protect your ears and neck, so opt for a wide-brimmed hat or wear clothing that covers those areas. A t-shirt has an SPF rating lower than 15, so it’s safest to use other types of protection as well.
A 1997 article in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that only minutes of exposure here and there accumulate over the years and lead to premature skin aging. This is far less than the exposure required to produce a visible sunburn or even a tan.
So, watch out.