Some Canadians believe the myths circulating on the internet and may be reluctant to use sunscreen as they go outside in the warming weather. Some bloggers claim sunscreen causes cancer even though such a thing has never been scientifically proven.
‘Trust the science’
“The concern that is being expressed by so many bloggers is that chemicals like avobenzone or oxybenzone in sunscreens have carcinogenic potential. None of this is confirmed by proper randomized clinical trials in humans,” says Joe Schwarcz, director of McGill office for Science & Society.
“What is confirmed is that excessive exposure to sunlight, whether it be the shorter wave length UVB or the longer wave length UVA, results in skin cancer. This is something that is beyond any contention.
“So it is important to use some protection and trust the science,” adds Schwarcz. He notes that companies have extensively studied their products and greatly improved them over the years so that they are now very effective. A product cannot be proven 100 per cent safe for all people of all ages all the time, he says, but reactions are most often due to allergies.Listen
Coconut oil is not effective
“One of the problems with the scaremongering about modern sunscreens and sunblocks is that people are turning to what they call natural remedies. And the one that is really scooting around the internet these days at breakneck speed is coconut oil,” says Schwarcz.
Laboratory tests show that it has only minimal ability to block harmful rays, so he worries in particular that people are using it on children, who are even more vulnerable to the sun.
‘Information is not wisdom’
Some bloggers say sunscreen may deprive users of vitamin D. Schwarcz says this is not an issue because 15 minutes of sunshine a day is sufficient or people can take vitamin D supplements.
Why Canadians get sucked into scare stories on the internet is a good question, says Schwarcz. He supposes scary stories are more interesting than solid science which may say products are safe, so they are circulated more. So much information is available on the internet that people suffer from information overload, he suggests.
“Information is not the same as wisdom. So while you can gather a lot of information, it doesn’t mean you know how to use it wisely.”