Our Take on Skin Cancer Prevention

Our Take on Skin Cancer Prevention

Do you ever feel like the advice floating around about healthy living is sometimes contradictory? Or changes dramatically in a short period of time?

Good cholesterol vs bad cholesterol – eggs are bad for you, just eat egg whites, eggs are a superfood! Good fat vs trans fat – should I cook with vegetable oil or coconut oil?

And don’t even get us started on the food pyramid, which got a major makeover. We spent a blissful couple of decades building our plates with about 80% carbs only to end up with an obesity epidemic brought about by over-consumption of sugar.

The conversation around cancer prevention is equally confusing. Specifically in the skin cancer arena, there is a lot of seemingly contradictory opinions between the various sectors of the medical world and holistic practitioners.

Let’s get baked

It wasn’t so long ago that the tanning booth was a routine part of people’s beauty regimens. Indoor tanning reached the height of it’s popularity when I was in high school when actors like Jennifer Lopez and Jessica Alba were all the rage. The Melanoma Research Foundation also points out that tanning can have an addictive component because of the release of endorphins brought about with UV exposure.
Tanning bed use has fallen out of grace as the research has become more solid regarding the link between melanoma and tanning. A person who’s tanned before the age of 30 increases their melanoma risk by 75% and a person who tans routinely is 3 times more likely to develop skin cancer.


Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for young people 15-29 years old. Melanoma is the leading cause of cancer death in women 25-30 years old and the second leading cause of cancer death in women 30-35 years old.

So we know fake baking is out, but what about sunbathing with sunscreen? We’re supposed to use sunscreen religiously to prevent melanoma. Right?

There are 3 problems with sunscreen in the cancer conversation:

1. Limitations of SPF

Studies show that sunscreen with SPF 15 can block about 93% of all incoming UVB rays. SPF 30 blocks 97%. SPF 50 blocks 98%.

SPF doesn’t protect us from UV rays 100% and it doesn’t protect against UVA radiation at all. These rays cause premature skin damage and aging.

2. Confusing Labeling Practices

And there are so many options, how are we supposed to know which is best? Mineral options are touted as ‘natural’ and even ‘organic’, but all sunscreen is chemical. The FDA actually went so far as to change the labeling requirements for sunscreens in order to make them easier to decipher for consumers. Marketing claims like waterproof and sweat-proof are no longer allowed. And sunscreens now have to be labeled as broad spectrum, allowing the purchaser to know they’re being protected against both UVA and UVB rays.

3. Suspicious Ingredients

In the last several years, the active ingredients in many sunscreens have come into question as carrying their own health risks. Certain common ingredients have been clinically proven to be hormone-disrupting, and therefore linked to other types of diseases and cancers. Though these studies haven’t been adopted as fact by the medical community, as a consumer we might still feel uncomfortable with our options.

Bottom line

There’s no such thing as a safe tan. So how are we supposed to enjoy outdoor living without increasing our skin cancer risk factors?

We’re not a sunscreen company. We’re an awning company.

The answer is shade. It is the original and safest form of sun protection. It’s also easier to achieve than people realize.

These are our suggestions:

1. Wear a hat and other UV protective clothing.

Upside: A tshirt only has an SPF protection of about 8. But a good sun hat or shirts and suits made with UV protection can block about 15 percent of UV rays. All of the protection of a sunscreen without any of the chemicals.

Downside: This only protects the areas of your skin covered.

2. Find or bring an umbrella

Upside: Most public parks or pools will have umbrellas on their patio or deck. And bringing your own isn’t terribly inconvenient.

Downside: It has to be situated at the perfect angle to block the sun 100%. And the sun moves so you have to continually adjust your position to stay in the shade.

3. Find or install an awning or canopy

Upside: This is a fixed structure so it will cover a large area and your whole personal area! It’s likely positioned to maximize shade for the longest period of the day. And it’s canvas fabric provides closest to 100% UV protection by nature of the way it’s woven.

Downside: We can’t think of one!

Many public pools, parks, zoos and stadiums have awnings on site.

And installing one in your home is easy and cost-effective.

We think shade matters, and we like to have these important conversations. Download this melanoma prevention guide.  Give us your best shade tips in the comments. And please, contact us to set up a free shade analysis of your home or business today!