Sunscreen

Reporter: Helen Wellings

Australia's worship of the sun comes at a huge cost - we have the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. Every year, almost 400,000 of us are diagnosed with skin cancer and over 1,600 die from it. No wonder we're constantly being warned to slip, slap and slop. But is sunscreen a cruel Catch 22 - could this necessary prevention contain serious hazards of its own? Helen Wellings on the potential problems and recommended sunscreens for all ages.

Most of us base our sunscreen choice on the sun protection factor and opt for the highest, but new warnings indicate that could be more harmful than helpful.Peter Taubert is a lecturer and author on dangerous chemicals. His message about sunscreen is clear: We need to be concerned, we need to look at every product and say what is in it and what do these chemicals do."The chemicals used in most sunscreen lotions or sunscreen products are actually known to cause cancer. Now that's when they're in their pure form, but we really don't know what they do when we start to mix three or four or five or seven," he says.He adds that, using over time, chemicals found in blockouts can also cause dermatitis, endometriosis, and early puberty in young children."The study in Zurich by one of the reputable institutes has found that chemicals in sunscreens are often estrogenic and cause developmental abnormalities when studied in the laboratory," comments Peter Taubert.

The Cancer Council's Professor Brenda Wilson, however, does not agree that we need to be concerned about sunscreen use."There's no evidence to suggest that sunscreens cause cancer." She says that sunscreens in Australia are rigorously tested .. and safe. In fact there's a lot of evidence to suggest that applying sunscreen, which is one of five ways in which people should protect themselves from the sun, can protect you from melanoma."

66 year old Ian Quigly's already had one melanoma removed and we visit him in hospital having another potentially malignant growth cut out ... all because of no sun protection. "I'd seen this purple mark on my back for probably six months and it started to grow, " explains Ian.Now he's stricter than ever about daily use of sunblock. "In the summer I apply sunscreen a fair bit, even cutting the lawns and those sorts of things."

But suncreams can cause serious reactions, as Cody Rixon and his mum, Kim, know. "When I was using the sunscreens I found he got a very bad rash and it was very prickly and very itchy on the skin and quite inflamed," says Kim. When she switched Cody to an organic cream, the problem stopped.

Dr Natasha Cook warns, "It's all that little bit of sun you are getting every day, that cumulative damage that in the end is going to give you problems. Your best investment in your skin care to prevent against ageing is a good sunscreen." She advises to choose a cream that contains zinc or titanium or both, because they are the only effective sunblocker chemicals.

"Sun damage is not only cancer but pigmentation, broken capilliaries and that sallow, chicken-skin appearance which is very hard to rectify once it comes so you need to prevent it. For very young to the elderly, Natasha's top 4 BODY sunscreens for everyday, are 30+ broadspectrum and water-resistant: Ego Sun Sense Sport Milk, UV Triplegard Everyday Lotion, Priceline Sun Sport and the Cancer Council's Classic Sunscreen.

For your FACE, Natasha's top 3 sunscreens that won't block pores: Shiseido Gentle Sun Protection Lotion, Invisible Zinc New Generation Suncare by Ganehill and Hamilton Everyday Face light moisturising Cream. And what most people don't know .... use lots. "If you don't put enough sunscreen on, your protection will go from 30+ down to something like a 6."

Peter Taubert's recommended list is much smaller. All his receoomedations contain ZINC. This active ingredient, zinc, is perfectly harmless. Choose Invisible Zinc, Select Clear Zinc and NI Natural Instinct. No others, he warns. Here are some of the chemicals found in sunscreens which Peter claims are potentially harmful: Benzolalcohol, BHA {Butylatedhydroxyanisole}, Butyl {methoxydibenzoylemethane}, Diazolodinyl Urea, Dimethicone, Diasodium edta, Ethanol, Homosalate, hydroxybenzoates {parabens}, Methylisothiazolinone, 4-Methylbenzylidene Camphor, Octorcrylene, Octyl Methoxycinnamate, Octyl Salicylate, Oxybenzone, Phenoxyethanol, Polysorbate 20, Titanium Dioxide, Triethanolamine.

"Tests are going to cost tens of thousands of dollars to prove it. What is easily proven is the chemicals that are in them," says Peter who is calling for tougher standards.

The Cancer Council urges sunscreens are our best weapons in the fight against UV radiation. Their advice: Also make sure you cover up, wear a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and seek shade.

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CONTACTS:

* Dr Natasha Cook

139 Macquarie Street,

Sydney.

02 9247 2887

Her sunscreen recommendations:

Top 4 BODY sunscreens for everyday are 30+ broadspectrum and water-resistant. Ego Sun Sense Sport Milk, UV Triplegard Everyday Lotion, Priceline Sun Sport and the Cancer Council's Classic Sunscreen.

Top 3 for the face, Shiseido Gentle Sun Protection Lotion, Invisible Zinc New Generation Suncare by Ganehill and Hamilton Everyday Face light moisturising Cream. Use lots.

* Peter Taubert's Sunscreen recommendations, all with Zinc: Invisible Zinc, Woolworths Select Clear Zinc, NI Natural Instinct.

- Publications: ProActive Health FOODS or CHEMICAL COCKTAILS

by Peter Taubert www.proactivehealth.net.au/index.php?mpid

- List of Chemicals Peter Taubert warns against in sunscreens: Benzolalcohol, BHA {Butylatedhydroxyanisole}, Butyl {methoxydibenzoylemethane}, Diazolodinyl Urea, Dimethicone, Diasodium edta, Ethanol, Homosalate, hydroxybenzoates {parabens}, Methylisothiazolinone, 4-Methylbenzylidene Camphor, Octorcrylene, Octyl Methoxycinnamate, Octyl Salicylate, Oxybenzone, Phenoxyethanol, Polysorbate 20, Titanium Dioxide, Triethanolamine.

Information and support for you and your family for the cost of a local call anywhere in Australia.

Cancer Council Australia website

(with links to state and territory Cancer Councils)

www.cancer.org.au

Cancer Council's Sunsmart Fact Sheet:

Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australia. More than 430,000 Australians are treated a year for skin cancers. Of these, over 10,500 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed. Each year there are around 1600 deaths from melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. Australia and New Zealand have the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.

The major cause of skin cancer is too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Skin can burn in as little as 15 minutes in the summer sun so it is important to protect your skin from UV radiation.

Avoid using solariums or sunbeds, which emit harmful levels of UV radiation up to five times as strong as the summer midday sun.

Skin cancer is largely preventable. Be SunSmart. Protect yourself against sun damage and skin cancer by using a combination of these five steps:

Slip on sun protective clothing

Choose clothing that:

Covers as much skin as possible eg. long sleeves and high necks/collars.

Is made from close weave materials such as cotton, polyester/cotton and linen.

If used for swimming, is made from materials such as lycra, which stays sun protective when wet.

Slop on SPF 30+ sunscreen

Make sure your sunscreen is broad spectrum and water-resistant. Sunscreen should not be used to increase the amount of time you spend in the sun and should always be used with other forms of protection. Apply sunscreen liberally to clean, dry skin at least 20 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours.

Slap on a hat

A broad brimmed, legionnaire or bucket style hat provides good protection for the face, nose, neck and ears, which are common sites for skin cancers. Caps and visors do not provide adequate protection. Choose a hat made with closely woven fabric - if you can see through it, UV radiation will get through. Hats may not protect you from reflected UV radiation, so also wear sunglasses and sunscreen to increase your level of protection.

Seek shade

Make use of trees or built shade structures, or bring your own! Staying in the shade is an effective way to reduce sun exposure. Whatever you use for shade, make sure it casts a dark shadow and use other protection (such as clothing, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen) to avoid reflected UV radiation from nearby surfaces.

Slide on some sunglasses

Sunglasses and a broad brimmed hat worn together can reduce UV radiation exposure to the eyes by up to 98 per cent. Choose close-fitting wrap-around sunglasses that meet the Australian Standard AS 1067. Sunglasses are as important for children as they are for adults.

Remember to take extra care between 10am and 3pm when UV radiation is most intense.

Look out for the SunSmart UV Alert which tells you the time period in which you need to be SunSmart - it appears on the weather page of most daily newspapers and on the Bureau of Meteorology website: www.bom.gov.au/weather/uv

www.bom.gov.au/weather/uvCheck

Check your skin regularly and see a doctor if you notice any unusual skin changes.

If you have a lesion that doesn't heal, or a mole that has suddenly appeared, changed in size, thickness, shape, colour or has started to bleed, ask your doctor for a skin examination. Treatment is more likely to be successful if skin cancer is discovered early.

Remember, if you have any concerns or questions, please contact your doctor.

is the best-selling author of three books including "Your Health and Food Additives "www.nutri-tech.com.au

Cancer Council Helpline 13 11 20