[ Question ]

Sunscreen. When? Why? Why not?

byViktor Riabtsev4mo27th Dec 201822 comments



I've been wondering about sunscreen's effectiveness in reducing cancer risk.

The general impression I've gotten in my (admittedly brief) research on it seems: "If you know you'll be exposed for a long duration in the summer/spring, then yes, wear sunscreen. Otherwise, Vitamin D generation takes priority." (related)

I've looked around on lesswrong, and can't find any really all-encompassing informative posts about it. The most interesting comment I've seen was by Tem42, who references a study that claims that overall cancer rates are actually lower in southern states vs northern states.

Is my general impression correct enough? Or should people be lathering sunscreen all the time; or not at all?

Thanks in advance!

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2 Answers

If you regularly get sunburn, you should use sunscreen, because sunburn is unpleasant. Death isn't the only thing that matters. If you haven't noticed that you get sunburn or haven't thought about the possibility of using sunscreen or making simple interventions, like buying sunscreen, or putting it near sports gear as a reminder, there are great opportunities for improvement.

Whether to use sunscreen in situations where you won't get sunburn is controversial. But these situations are intermediate and it's probably less important to get them right than the extremes.

Added: maybe this sounds like trivial advice, but it's important to figure out what the typical advice actually means in terms of who it's aimed at (confer).

Great article about this topic: https://www.outsideonline.com/2380751/sunscreen-sun-exposure-skin-cancer-science

It does seem that using sunscreen doesn't offset the harms prevented by vitamin D.