SPF: Slather it on

Maddy WendtJuly 7, 20104

The summer sun is enticing to outdoor enthusiasts like most of us skiers, but it can be more dangerous than we realize.  We all grew up with Mom chasing embarrassingly after us with a bottle of SPF 200, but it turns out Mom was right.  Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and studies have shown that endurance athletes are at a greater risk due to the extended hours spent in the sun.


It’s easy to dismiss the need for sunscreen when you’re in a hurry, or to decide that the phenomenal tanlines you’ve already developed are dark enough to protect you from further burns, but no matter how dark you get that’s just not true.

Even when the burn isn’t visible, sun damage can still occur.  “Tans only minimally protect your skin from further sun damage,” says Dr. Stanley J. Miller, Professor of Dermatology at Johns Hopkins University.  “Tanning is a sign of sun exposure and all exposure is damaging in a cumulative fashion.”

“I usually recommend to my patients to use an SPF of 30 or higher,” says Miller.  “It’s been shown that most people put sunscreen on much more thinly than is put on when the sunscreen is tested, so most people are only starting with a 10 instead of a 15. Then, if you sweat or swim over the next few hours, your 10 drops to a 6. At this point your protection is inadequate.”

Take it from this irresponsible rollerskier who now has some strange lines and painful burns on her back, sunscreen is a good thing.  Plus, who wants a sunglasses and helmet tan? It’s just not attractive.

Tan lines: the ultimate fashion accesory.

Maddy Wendt

Maddy is on the Nordic ski team at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where her majors are psychology, political science, skiing, and being an awesome JA.

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  • highstream

    July 7, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    While in principle the author is right, it doesn’t look like she did her homework, a simple google search on “sunblock studies.” According to recent work, the vast majority of sunblock products are unsafe or ineffective, with only one of three types of cancer protected against, and that one is not melanoma. Here are a few references:

    http://www.ewg.org/2010sunscreen/ (Environmental Working Group)

  • cbrekke

    July 8, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    So highstream nay-sayer, what’s your suggestion? Forgo sunscreen? Take up Wii bowling instead?

  • Bill Wells

    July 8, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Take a look at the links.

  • dr mom

    July 9, 2010 at 7:16 am

    Perhaps there are debates about sunscreen use and cancer prevention, BUT there is no debate that a sunburn is a burn to a major organ in your body. I find it hard to ignore the fact that asking your body to recover from training while trying to heal a major body organ isn’t going to help! Just seems like common sense.

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