Fact check Malta: TikTok is soaking up sunscreen misinformation

Social media sees an endless stream of trends. A potential contender for the summer’s hottest: sunscreen is actually bad for you. At least, so say a number of TikTok users.

News sites in the United States have been reporting that misinformation about sunscreen is spreading profusely on the bite-size video platform and that young people in particular are falling victim to it.

Among the myths are claims that sunscreen causes skin cancer, that it contains toxic chemicals that seep into the bloodstream, and that it interferes with vitamin D absorption.

One example of a TikTok post spreading misinformation about the effects of sunscreen.

Back in May, The New York Times referred to research that showed young people are more likely to believe sun safety myths, including that sunscreen is more harmful than direct sun exposure. ‘While the surveys are too small to capture the behaviours of all young adults,’ the newspaper reported, ‘doctors said they’ve noticed these knowledge gaps and riskier behaviours anecdotally among their younger patients, too.’

Just a few days ago, CBS News reported that dermatologists in the US are seeing a growing number of anti-sunscreen patients and, simultaneously, increasing cases of skin conditions that could develop into cancer if not detected early.

Even though the TikTok misinformation has mostly been circulating within the US, similar claims have travelled across Europe in the past. Last summer, Deutsche Welle and Full Fact debunked a series of posts claiming that sunscreen contains carcinogenic substances and leads to vitamin D deficiencies.

Similar claims have also circulated in Malta in the past.

Around this time last year, Malta’s Meteorological Office issued a red weather warning as scorching temperatures and an ‘extremely high’ UV index took hold. As summer crawls into its dog days, the sun is already stronger, with the Meteorological Office reporting a UV index of 10 this week.

In recent years, Maltese oncologists have spoken of a “worrying trend” in the increase of melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer, with some studies predicting that cases of melanoma in Malta are set to increase by 43% by 2040, amongst the highest rates in Europe.

In response, health experts have called on the public to use broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 on all areas of exposed skin, and reapply sunscreen every two hours.

Fact Checker Logo

Fact Check, Health, Society

Author(s): Department of Media and Communications

Originally published here.