Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Why you have to take health articles with a grain of salt (or a ton, in this case)

This morning, a Facebook friend posted a link to a story that declared that if you used sunscreen, you were more likely to die than if you didn't. In fact, the intro was: "According to a June 2014 article featured in The Independent (UK), a major study conducted by researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found that women who avoid sunbathing during the summer are twice as likely to die as those who sunbathe every day."

There is so much wrong with this sentence and the whole article itself. First of all, we all die. At least, at this point we still all die. What the future holds in terms of eternal life, we don't yet know.

The article, in case you haven't guessed, is anti-sunscreen. The author uses references such as this one from the journal Cancer, which doesn't say at all that sunscreen use will lead to an earlier death or that sunscreen causes melanoma, both of which the original article's author claims it says. The article says that if you use sunscreen, particularly the lower SPF types, you will likely spend more time in the sun, increasing your sun exposure, increasing your chances of developing skin cancer.

The article author also doesn't take into account that the people most likely to use sunscreen are people who are fair and who burn easily - and are by their genetics at higher risk of developing skin cancer. He also ignored that Australia, which has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, is starting to see a decline with its campaign to get people either out of the sun or to protect themselves with clothing and sunscreen.

Outside of that one scientific reference, which the article's author completely misinterpreted for his own means, his only other references are to newspaper articles or website articles, which are not credible first-line sources.

Are there problems with sunscreens? There may be with some types, considering what is put into them to produce them, which is why we need to be careful about what we use. Are there problems caused by not using sunscreens - yes and it's been proven. The problems are called cancer. If you have concerns about sunscreen, find out more about them and the type you use. But this type of article, which is making its rounds through social media, is not educational or beneficial in any way - it is fear mongering.

Folks, if you want to spread news about health issues, real news, please be sure that the articles are written with good scientific backup. This particular article is crap and may do more damage than good.

1 comment:

Annie Logue said...

Not just cancer - but wrinkles! Suncreen - and staying out of the sun - is an easy way to avoid wrinkles.