By Naaz Shareef
It is that time of the year again. The time that people are actually outside more often than inside. You can tell it is that time by the fact that everyone is in a better mood than usual. On top of that, the beaches are getting crowded. I am talking about the summer, the time that everyone is getting either a tan or a burn.
The first thing that comes to my mind before I visit the beach is: don’t forget sunscreen! When on the beach, I see everyone applying sunscreen all the time. It actually amazes me how many people use it. The problem is, however, that most people still don’t apply sunscreen in sufficient amounts .
Sunscreens have already been the most popular product for protection against UV radiation for more than 40 years, especially in Western countries. They filter or scatter UV radiation. UV radiation is well known to cause skin damage, which can lead to conditions such as erythema. Excessive exposure to UV carries health risks, such as atrophy, pigmentary changes, wrinkles and malignancy. Because of the described negative effects of UV radiation, you should apply enough sunscreen so that you are protected against the sun. Besides these negative effects of UV, it also has its benefits. UV benefits the health by mediating natural synthesis of vitamin D and endorphins in the skin. Having a high sun exposure can even lead to a 2-fold decrease in mortality, compared to the total avoidance of sun exposure. However, UV has more negative effects than positive.
Some people state that applying once is enough to be protected against UV, because they never get burned when they are spending their time in the sun. However, you cannot always see the damage immediately. UV leads to damage of DNA, which accumulates with time if sunscreen is not used correctly. One should at least use 9 teaspoons (45 mL) of sunscreen for the whole body to be protected against the damaging effects of UV. If you are not using this amount of sunscreen, you could get more damage, which in the worst case can lead to skin cancer.
The fact that you cannot see damage immediately does not mean that the damage has not already been done. With a lot of things in our body, you see the true effects of events afterwards. So, next time you are enjoying a sunny day at the beach, try not to forget your sunscreen!
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 P.G. Lindqvist, et al. Avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor for all-cause mortality: Results from the melanoma in southern sweden cohort. Journal of internal medicine 276, 77-86 (2014).
 L.A. Kuritzky & J. Beecker. Sunscreens. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal 187, E419-E419 (2015).