Sunscreen's Role In Preventing Melanoma Questioned
Dermatologist Dr. Bernard Ackerman devotes many hours of his time diagnosing
cases of skin cancer. Yet, on a recent trip, he didn't seem worried about the
potential risk of the disease while he sunbathed without the use of sunscreen
or a hat. Ackerman, 68, is an expert in the field of dermatology and the
emeritus director of the Ackerman Academy of Dermatopathology. He considers the
connection between melanoma and the sun both inconclusive and inconsistent.
Dr. Ackerman disputes current assumptions connecting the sun and melanoma:
(1) If a person is badly sunburned, to the point of blistering at an early age
in their life, they will develop skin cancer later on in life. Ackerman pointed
out there were contradictions in the studies supporting this theory.
(2) Another common assumption is that sunscreen acts as a protection against
melanoma. To counter this theory, Ackerman referred to a study completed in a
dermatology journal on the subject that didn't provide any factual evidence to
support this theory.
(3) The more intense the exposure to the sun, the greater the likelihood of
developing melanoma. Ackerman claimed that much of the epidemiological research
is inaccurate and doesn't evaluate cause and effect findings. Ackerman advised
keeping out of the sun if you're concerned about premature aging or if you're
very fair-skinned due to the increased risk of developing squamous cell
carcinoma, a less dangerous form of cancer. Otherwise, Ackerman said it was not
wise to hold onto the beliefs that included avoiding the sun and using
sunscreen as ways to protect against melanoma.
Ackerman further challenges the "epidemic" of melanoma by questioning why
African Americans and Asians developed melanoma on their skin mainly on areas
that haven't been exposed to the sun such as the palms, soles, nails and mucous
membranes. Another dermatologist, Darrell Rigel, disagreed with Ackerman's
ideas stated that people who developed melanoma in areas that weren't exposed
to sun were a result of the way sunlight suppressed immune cells in the surface
of the skin that normally kept cancer at bay. Ackerman explained that this
"immune-system argument" lacked evidence and acted as a hypothesis to the
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hosted a half-day symposium on tanning in
July (2003) at the American Society of Photobiology's annual conference in
Baltimore. Potential benefits and risks of UV exposure were discussed, along
with presentations on how much UV you need to get a tan and how protective a
tan is against sunburn.
"There is no real debate about a blistering sunburn,' FDA's Howard Cyr said in
his opening remarks, "But there is considerable debate about tanning itself. Is
it safe?" Cyr pointed out that there is no identifiable threshold for what
level of exposure is "safe" and that few people have been taking into
consideration that there are benefits to exposure as well.
Researchers have been using fish, mice and other marsupials to test different
skin cancer models for years in trying to implicate UVA exposure as a risk
factor for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Data presented in
Baltimore showed exactly the opposite.... mice exposed to pure UVA did not
develop melanomas. Mice exposed to 100 percent UVB did develop melanomas.
With divergent conclusions with different mouse models, the mouse researchers
are back to square one. Research still cannot explain how, why, or even if UV
light is associated with melanoma at all.
As reported in the ContraCostaTimes.com (from the New York Times article by Gina
Comment: We believe that it is always best to achieve a tan gradually, to
prevent burning and with minimal or no use of sunscreen so as not to deprive
the body of the suns' many health benefits. When you use sunscreen your body is
absorbing synthetic chemicals, and with experts' recommendations to apply
generous amounts of the product every few hours, you will likely be absorbing a
fair amount. While the FDA classifies most active ingredients in sunscreen as
GRASE (generally regarded as safe and effective), it is hard to believe that
all of these chemicals will not have any effect on your system at some point.
The truth is "what you put on your skin will eventually end up in your