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Exposing the sunscreen coverup



Summertime! Time to hit the beach, soak up some rays, and get a nice tan. Yeah, yeah -- there's that little skin-cancer issue, but, hey, that's what sunscreen lotions are for, right? Just glop on the sunscreen, lay back, and;let the lotion protect you from cancer.

Well, not exactly. Mother Jones magazine reports that a survey of research by an epidemiologist at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center concludes: "It's not safe to rely on sunscreen." But, wait, you cry, my dermatologist told me it's OK to stay in the sun all day, as long as I keep my skin covered with sunscreen. The problem, Little Nellie Sunshine, is that dermatologists get much of their information about the effectiveness of sunscreen lotion from a group called the Skin Cancer Foundation. Guess who's a heavy financial supporter? Sunscreen manufacturers.

Here's the game manufacturers are running on us: Yes, their sunscreens do protect against UV-B lightwaves, which causes sunburn and can lead to two kinds of skin cancer. But these two cancers are reported to be almost always medically minor. On the other hand, there are the far more dangerous UV-A lightwaves, which can cause a third kind of nasty and deadly cancer called malignant melanoma. These lightwaves penetrate right through sunscreen and the outer skin, often causing the deeper skin cells to become cancerous,;and producing more than 7,000 deaths a year.

Indeed, even though sunscreen sales have skyrocketed, so has melanoma, becoming our country's fastest-rising cancer. If the lotion really protects us, why are we getting so much more skin cancer? Mother Jones reporter Michael Castleman says sunscreen might even contribute to the cancer, since it prevents sunburning, which is nature's way of saying, "Get out of the sun!"

Instead of buying the industry's hype, buy yourself a big umbrella.

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