I spied this ‘editorial’ in the Daily Mail this week (we’ll come to why editorial is in quotes in a moment). It’s about a poll that shows, apparently, a significant number of young children are refusing to wear sunscreen. One in three, apparently, will seek to get out in the sun at every available opportunity.
I don’t have access to details of the poll or how it was done, but the tone of the article is that young children often have a reckless attitude to the sun. Here’s a quote from the piece:
These findings are really alarming as they show that children have little regard or knowledge of the dangers of the sun, or the consequences of spending time in the burning sun without protection.
This quote comes from Richard Cryne – Superdrug’s ‘sun care buyer’. And we all know how important it is to take sun exposure advice from a person whose job is to ensure his pharmacy’s shelves are stocked with sun care products.
Numerous times on this site I have written about the broad benefits of sunlight exposure. While increased exposure is associated with an increased risk of certain skin cancers, it’s also associated with a reduced risk of lots of other forms of cancer, as well as protection from other chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease and multiple sclerosis.
Quite a lot of evidence links these benefits to higher levels of vitamin D. Suncreens can block vitamin D production. They’re also quite chemicalised. They also might prevent burning but be used to extend time in the sun and allow increased exposure to potentially harmful rays. For more about this, see my blog post ‘The Dark Side of Sunscreens’. You can read there about some evidence which links sunscreen use with an increased risk of melanoma.
A couple of years back, I featured a BMJ column written by GP (family doctor) Des Spence on the very subject of sun exposure in kids. In this piece, he writes about the importance of vitamin D, as well as how increasing rates of melanoma are probably the result of ‘over-diagnosis’. He even refers to evidence which casts doubt on the idea that melanoma is chiefly caused by sunlight exposure. Here’s an extract from Dr Spence’s original piece:
Melanoma most commonly occurs in areas that are less sun exposed. It is 50% more common in social class one, despite the fact that manual workers are more likely to work outside and use sun beds.
The most conflicting evidence, however, is that despite a reported tripling of incidence, the actual death rate under 65 has remained unchanged. This observation cannot be explained by better treatment, because melanoma remains resistant to chemotherapy.
None of the doubts over the relationship between melanoma and sunlight or the safety and effectiveness of sunscreens make their way into the Daily Mail piece. We do learn, however, that the poll was a joint initiative between Superdrug and the skin cancer charity Skcin. See here for its corporate sponsors. Should you bother clicking on that link, I trust you won’t fall off your chair when you see sunscreen manufacturers there.
You may notice, also, that the author of the piece appears as ‘Daily Mail Reporter’. Why has no writer put their name to this piece? Because, I suspect, no journalist actually wrote it. I think it’s a ‘cut and paste job’. It’s not editorial or even news. It is, I think, just a press release.
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