MYTH NUMBER ONE
Children need long exposure to the sun to produce sufficient quantities of vitamin D.
The truth Only a small amount of exposure to the sun is necessary to produce vitamin D on the skin, no more than 3-4 minutes a day. In addition, it appears that giving children vitamin D drops or adding vitamin D to food (mainly in milk products) is equally effective.
MYTH NUMBER TWO
Skin cancer is a natural part of aging and cannot be prevented.
The truth The older a person gets the greater his or her chance of developing skin cancer. Nevertheless, there is clear proof that exposure to the sun from a young age has a decisive influence on the development of skin cancer in older people. In addition, there has been an increase in reported cases of skin cancer in young people in their 20s and 30s and sometimes even younger.
MYTH NUMBER THREE
Only someone who suffers from sunburn is liable to develop skin cancer.
The truth People who have a tendency towards sunburn are more likely to develop skin cancer than people who don’t have the tendency. Nevertheless it has been proved that prolonged exposure to the sun without sunburn damages the skin and is liable to lead to the development of skin cancer.
MYTH NUMBER FOUR
Letting the skin rest between suntans allows the skin to recover and repair sun-induced damages.
The truth The skin can repair only a fraction of the superficial damage caused by exposure to the sun. As a result, sunburn lasts only a few days. The damage done to the deeper regions of the skin remains and accumulates, and the direct results of this damage are only apparent after 20 or 30 years.
MYTH NUMBER FIVE
A child without a suntan is an unhealthy child.
The truth Most people like the way a suntan looks, but this “healthy” look is misleading, since a tan is in reality a sign that the skin has been injured: in an attempt to protect itself from additional damage, the cells produce a pigment called melanin which causes the skin to darken. While tanning occurs the skin is being damaged, and that damage will become apparent later when wrinkles and brown patches appear, the skin sags and possibly develops cancer. Therefore, the expression “a healthy tan” is actually a contradiction in terms.
MYTH NUMBER SIX
If a sunscreen is used, there is no limit to the amount of time a person can stay in the sun.
The truth Sunscreens afford the skin only partial protection. Different factors, such as the amount of sun screen used, the rate at which perspiration dissolves the active ingredient, how long the sunscreen has been on the skin and the sun protection factor all influence the real degree of protection afforded. The only way to completely prevent sun-induced damage is not to expose oneself to the sun at all. Since it is obvious that that is not a practical solution, the skin should be protected by wearing appropriate clothing (closely-woven fabrics, hats) and by sitting in the shade.
MYTH NUMBER SEVEN
The suntan acquired in a tanning salon does not cause damage.
The truth In the 1960s a suntan became fashionable, and that trend led to the flowering of chains of tanning salons and to the proliferation of sunlamps in people’s homes. Initially people used lamps which emitted UVB, but when it was proved that UVB caused skin cancer they replaced them with UVA lamps. In 1988 in America alone there were 20,000 tanning salons and about 200,000 sunlamps in private use. In research done in 1986 it became apparent that most of the sunlamps were being used by teenage girls. UVA will only cause tanning if absorbed at a level five times higher than what is found in nature. Despite the fact that UVA does not cause sunburn, it causes real long-term damage to the skin which is sometimes worse than UVB-caused damage. Since UVA penetrates deep into the skin, exposure to large quantities of UVA causes all the signs of skin aging, including faster wrinkling and increased risk of skin cancer. An additional danger unique to tanning salons relates to people who are on medication. As previously described, certain drugs are liable to cause hypersensitivity to sun exposure, usually linked to UVA. A person taking such medication who is exposed to large quantities of UVA at a tanning salon runs a greater risk of developing rashes linked to his or her particular drug.
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