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.
The epidemiological study followed 30,000 women for over 20 years and “showed that mortality was about double in women who avoided sun exposure compared to the highest exposure group.”
Researchers concluded that the conventional dogma, which advice avoiding the sun at all costs and slathering on sunscreen to minimize sun exposure, is doing more harm than actual good.
That’s because overall sun avoidance combined with wearing sunscreen effectively blocks the body’s ability to produce vitamin D3 from the sun’s UVB rays, which is by far the best form of vitamin D.
In the USA, vitamin D deficiency is at epidemic levels. Ironically, vitamin D deficiency can lead to aggressive forms of skin cancer. A ground-breaking 2011 study published in Cancer Prevention Research suggests that optimal blood levels of vitamin D offer protection against sunburn and skin cancer.
Additionally, vitamin D protects the body from diseases like multiple sclerosis, rickets (in the young), tuberculosis, inflammatory bowel disease, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus and Sjogren’s syndrome.
According to the Vitamin D Council, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham recently reported that “lack of sun exposure may lead to cognitive decline over time.”
A dissident dermatologist
Bernard Ackerman, MD, (deceased 2008) was one of the world’s foremost authorities on the subject of skin cancer and the sun, sunscreens and melanoma skin cancer risks.
Below are Ackerman’s views excerpted from an article in The New York Times (July 20, 2004), titled “I BEG TO DIFFER; A Dermatologist Who’s Not Afraid to Sit on the Beach”:
The link between melanoma and sun exposure (dermatology’s dogma) is unproven.There’s no conclusive evidence that sunburns lead to cancer.There is no real proof that sunscreens protect against melanoma.There’s no proof that increased exposure to the sun increases the risk of melanoma.
A 2000 Swedish study concluded that higher rates of melanoma occurred in those who used sunscreen versus those who did not.
SUNSCREENS: CANCER-CAUSING BIOHAZARDS
Elizabeth Plourde, Ph.D., is a California-based scientist who authored the book Sunscreens – Biohazard: Treat as Hazardous Waste, which extensively documents the serious life-threatening dangers of sunscreens not only to people but to the environment as well.
Dr. Plourde provides proof that malignant melanoma and all other skin cancers increased significantly with ubiquitous sunscreen use over a 30-year period. She emphasizes that many sunscreens contain chemicals that are known carcinogens and endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC).
Environmentally, she notes: “In areas where there have been much exposure to ED [endocrine disrupting] chemicals, coral and other sea populations have died off and the prevalence of dual-sexed fish has risen.”
Dr. Plourde’s research on mice and sunscreen exposure also showed increases in both pup and maternal mortality as well as reproductive issues in subsequent generations.
Additionally, the book documents how sunscreen chemicals have polluted our water sources including oceans, rivers and municipal drinking water. Worse yet, testing revealed that 97% of Americans have sunscreen chemicals in their blood!
Dr. Plourde’s book also has a chapter on the importance of vitamin D3 to health, and she posits that the widespread vitamin D3 deficiency is linked to overuse of sunscreen combined with sun avoidance in general.
Some sunscreens contain ingredients that might even trigger skin tumors and lesions, according to the EWG’s 2010 Sunscreen Guide.
The EWG recommends just 39 (8%) of 500 beach and sports sunscreens tested for the guide. Why do so many sunscreens get a mark of disapproval? A number of reasons–SPF claims above 50 can’t be substantiated; the FDA believes that a form of vitamin A called retinyl palmitate, found in 41% of sunscreens, could speed up skin damage and increase skin cancer risk when applied to the face, arms, legs, back, and chest; and many sunscreens contain oxybenzone, a hormone-disrupting compound that enters the bloodstream through the skin.
This is partially the fault of the FDA, which has promised–and failed to deliver on–regulations for sunscreen. The organization claims that regulations might be issued as soon as next October, but manufacturers will have at least a year to comply. In the meantime, which sunscreens can we trust?
The EWG’s top picks include Badger Sunscreen Face Stick, Purple Praire Botanicals Sun Stick, California Baby Sunblock Stick, and All Terrain Aquasport Performance Sunscreen. The biggest offenders–all of which contain Vitamin A and oxybenzone–include Rx Suncare Sports Sunblock, Rocky Mountain Sunscreen High Exposure, and philosophy shelter broad spectrum sunscreen for face and body. The full rankings are available here.
When I was in my late teens/early 20‘s I used to work at a pharmacy in the dispensing area. As part of the experience, I had the opportunity to attend various workshops and seminars related to health from time to time. One particular time I was sent to a workshop about sunscreen products. I remember hearing everything that was shared and how sunscreen products must be recommended and taken seriously to protect everyone from skin cancer. I also remember thinking that something about this just did not make sense. The room was full of various white cream, chemical testers and my science-loving mind and background was in full swing thinking about the reaction between these chemicals on the skin and the sun.
Fast forward to today and we have a population deficient in vitamin D, skin cancer is on the rise, continuing to plague more people each year, and the sunscreen industry is booming. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung, and colon.
So what is going on? While I continue to still wonder about this myself, I have been actively trying to help people see the other side of the sunscreen story for several years now. After all, if we knew (at least) since the 1970‘s about the sun and skin cancer risk, shouldn’t all this sunscreen use start turning things around? Through continued research over the years, I have discovered some interesting theories and facts that I believe to be more true, than what we are told through the mainstream media and medical field about the need for sunscreen.
Connecting the Dots on Skin Cancer and Sunscreen Use
There are many things that we may not be sure of, at least not for some time, where the whole sunscreen and skin cancer trends are concerned. What we are sure of is that skin cancer rates are definitely on the rise. If you examine the graph below, you can see that since the 1970’s skin cancer rates for some parts of our population have more than quadrupled.
Prudent mainstream medical professionals will take one look at that graph and conclude that we must protect ourselves with more sunscreen any time we expose ourselves to the sun. I mean it looks obvious that the more skin cancer cases there are, the more likely we are to get it, unless we protect ourselves. Right? Well not so fast. While the sunscreen industry would love us to use more and in fact they don’t make this a secret, telling us to keep re-applying frequently and wear SPF protection year round as they put SPF ingredients into more and more everyday personal care products, there is much more to this story.
Commercial sunscreens, pretty much as we know them today, began their production and entry onto the market around the 1950’s and 60’s. Even though their use continued to increase from there, it wasn’t until about the 1990’s that sunscreen became very popular infiltrating every area of personal care products. At this point they were being widely marketed and available throughout North America, being touted as a “must” when we are outdoors, especially when in the direct vicinity of the sun.
So let’s consider our first idea. By the looks of those dates, one can begin to start connecting a possible correlation between the increased use of sunscreen and the increased presence of skin cancer. After all, if sunscreen is meant to protect us, with its astounding popularity, one would think the skin cancer rates would at least stabilize, if not decrease. Of course, this goes against everything the mainstream media and medical field would have us believe, so let us look at some more facts.
Our Lifestyles Play A Big Part
Around the same time, starting in the 1950’s and beginning to boom around the 1970’s we began to see the wide emergence and acceptance of processed food of all kinds and forms. Microwaves, convenience stores, frozen dinners and fast food started to become the norm. Hydrogenated fat, low fat, zero fat, high protein and diets high in animal products began new trends of eating. By the 1980’s we were well into leading lives based on nutrient-deficient, high calorie, and unnatural food products.
We saw the decrease of wholesome, natural and nutrient-rich foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, raw nuts, seeds, sprouts, beans and real whole grains, as well as home prepared meals. Lifestyle habits were changing, and fast, but unfortunately not for the better. By the 1990’s, aside from the processed foods, diets high in animal products—especially dairy, refined carbs, sugars, salt and unhealthy fats, we saw the emergence of genetically modified foods.
So how does this relate to the increase in skin cancer or any cancer for that matter?
It is now a well-known fact that whole, natural plant foods contain compounds called phytochemicals. While we are still in the early stages of understanding these powerful plant compounds, what we do know thus far is that they are highly beneficial for our health when it comes to healing and prevention. Animal foods do not have phytochemicals. Processed foods do not either, for the most part. Whatever nutrients they may have had are usually stripped out or destroyed during the processing of the food items, necessitating many to be fortified with synthetic nutrients to even have any value for us. We cannot build health or a healthy body if we don’t have the right tools – and the right tools are real, natural nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.
What else we know at this point for sure, is that diets high in fruits and vegetables are associated with a reduced risk of cancer. Even the American Cancer Society is kind enough to admit that. In fact, antioxidants—a group of phytochemicals—work to combat free radicals and repair our DNA. Free radicals are damaging molecules that can come to us from numerous sources in our environment, with UV radiation being one of them. Free radicals readily damage our DNA and this is considered one of the main precursors for cancer initiation. Phytochemicals only exist in plant foods and the primary source of antioxidants are also plant foods.
What is amazing about antioxidants as well, is that they provide a two-sided benefit for us. First, they offer preventative benefits, offering us some natural protection against burning and skin damage. Secondly, they provide healing benefits, to repair any damaged areas. Carotenoids like beta-carotene, the precursor for vitamin A, especially when combined with the antioxidant vitamin E, have been shown to decrease and protect against sunburn in individuals.
So over the past few decades, as skin cancer rates continued to rise, our diets continued to decline in quality. It has only been in the last decade that the movement for natural health and optimal nutrition is starting to register with more people. Today, many health experts are beginning to connect the dots that toxic lifestyles and poor nutrition, not sun exposure, are a major cause of sunburns and skin damage.
Chemicals in Sunscreen Cannot Be Ignored
While many of us are still under the impression that commercial personal care products are “safe” for us, the truth about their harmful properties or toxic effects is coming out on a regular basis today. And sunscreens are not exempt from this exposé.
When the sun hits our skin, two main things happen. Depending on the season and time of day, in the presence of UVB rays, it begins the reaction which produces vitamin D in our bodies for us. Hence we can understand why around 3/4 of the population is deficient in vitamin D when we are constantly blocking this reaction, the select times that it is even possible. The second thing is that the sun’s rays signal melanin production in our skin—the pigment made naturally in our bodies—to protect against UV damage.
What is most amazing about melanin and something most people don’t know, is that its photochemical properties make it an excellent photoprotectant. This means it absorbs harmful UV-radiation and transforms the energy into harmless heat through a chemical reaction known as “ultrafast internal conversion”. This property enables melanin to disperse more than 99.9% of the absorbed UV radiation as heat, protecting us from UV damage.
And this brings us to our first problem with sunscreen. The active sunscreen ingredients cannot disperse the energy of the excited state as efficiently as melanin. In fact, these chemicals are potent enough to absorb and render UV rays harmless, which raises concern that they may also cause DNA damage in the skin, the very thing that sun-care products are designed to protect against. This causes a whole slew of problems as penetration of sunscreen ingredients into the lower layers of the skin takes place, increasing the number of free radicals and harmful reactive oxygen species. On top of that just the heat reaction of many of the chemicals with the sun alone, using our skin as their Petrie dish, has its own questionable concerns.
To add to this, the second main problem is that the very same active ingredients that are needed for a product to have sunscreen properties are harmful to us, even without the presence of the sun or heat. Common names like oxybenzone, PABA, benzophenone, and even avobenzone should be avoided at all costs! See the following article from PressCore.ca for a more thorough list of harmful sunscreen ingredients.
Natural sunscreens contain natural ingredients as the base, and natural minerals like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the active ingredients to block the sun. Even though these may not be perfect, they are by far the best natural options available if sunscreen use is necessary.
And if you think this is some fresh or radical news, think again. Apparently studies exist to prove that there are major problems with sunscreen and its link to skin cancer. Naturally the powers that be are slow to face this information as it threatens to bring down a major industry which is making billions of dollars off of us.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York has been a leading voice on this issue and you can read more of his findings when it comes to the sunscreen and skin cancer link here.
If the product is doing more harm than good, people have a right to know – and the FDA must take action.
Sen. Chuck Schumer
Natural health expert Mike Adams, the Health Ranger has written a lot on this topic as well and created this video where he shares that sunlight alone does not cause skin cancer.
Similarly, aside from many natural health providers, even some allopathic doctors have spoken up about this issue publicly. The late Dr. A. Bernard Ackerman, who was a dermatologist and director of the Ackerman Academy of Dermatopathology in New York, raised many concerns where the links between the sun, skin cancer and sunscreen are concerned. He has openly stated that there is no evidence to support that sunscreens protect against melanoma.
Another widely known dermatologist and author of the books The UV Advantage and The Vitamin D Solution, Dr. Michael Holick shares similar sentiments in that we should not avoid the sun for optimal health. He teaches about sensible sun exposure and its necessity for proper vitamin D production.
The population of the world has been brainwashed by the American Academy of Dermatology and the sunscreen industry, for 30 years, with the unrelenting message that you should never be exposed to direct sunlight because it is going to cause serious skin cancer and death.
Michael Holick, MD
What About Earth and Sun Changes?
Our discussion would be incomplete without mentioning that yes, the sun, Earth and our atmosphere have also been changing over the past several decades.
Some claims have surfaced that the sun has gotten stronger over the past few decades, and many people go around believing that without there being any solid proof for such claims. While the sun has its natural 11-year cycle or increased and decreased activity, the consensus seems to be that the sun has not gotten stronger or hotter over the past few decades. On the contrary, it has shown a slight cooling trend since 1978 and even the EPA has stated that based on a 25-year record, the effect of changes in the sun’s intensity is estimated to be relatively small in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Where a more plausible explanation exists for the perceived increase in sun intensity, is the loss of parts of the ozone layer. The ozone layer—which protects us from much of the UV radiation—has gone through some turbulent times, thinning out in some areas over the past few decades. This allows more UV radiation to pass through. As we have learned that many of our industrial chemicals were to blame, we have begun to slowly turn things around hoping that the ozone layer will perhaps recover over the next century. However, even on this issue, not all scientists are in agreement and instead point to the political and corporate ties that influence policy, which affects our health, medical and environmental sectors.
What we do know for sure is that the levels and types of UV rays emitted vary drastically based on season, time of day and geographic location. Due to this, there is no one ‘clear cut’ or ‘black and white’ answer when it comes to safe or unsafe sun exposure or sunscreen use.
Based on everything we know, and don’t know, as the pieces of the puzzle continue to come together and build a big picture perspective for us, one thing seems clear: we should NOT BUY or USE ANY of the COMMERCIAL, CHEMICAL sunscreen products—options like Coppertone, Hawaiian Tropic or Banana Boat, just to name a few. There is too much for each of us to risk and lose, by being a pawn in the game of profit and propaganda.
It does not take a scientific study to provide the answers, where common sense can prevail. The sun has been the source of health for humans and other animals, as well as all living beings since the beginning of time. It is an essential part of our life that must simply be respected, not feared or abused. And when it comes to sunscreens, with a little common sense we can also deduce that putting synthetic chemicals on our skin—a living, breathing, permeable organ, and then going out to bake in the sun just doesn’t seem like a smart choice.
When you feel a sunscreen may be necessary, stick to one of the many natural, mineral-based, non-nano particle options available today. To help you find one, consult the EWG’s annual sunscreen guide.
The best way to protect from sun damage and heal any existing damage is as always, by working from the inside out. Change your diet and focus on eating whole, natural, fresh, mostly plant food, while keeping toxins and chemicals found in today’s processed food or drinks out. We know for sure today that you can boost your internal sunscreen by eating antioxidant-rich foods, so why not use Mother Nature’s first and most natural defense mechanism and intelligence. The second best option is to use sun smart habits and cover up with light, loose clothing when needed.
As the years go on and our consciousness, thinking, and habits continue to change, it is my hope that we will be able to see more clearly when it comes to connecting the dots outlined above. For me, that gut feeling I had early on in my life when working at the pharmacy proved true. And so I invite you as well to connect with your inner guidance, honor and respect it, and do what feels most right to you. For me, this means never again using a commercial sunscreen or fearing the sun. Today, I choose to interact with the sun through respect, harmony, and balance, while enjoying its many amazing health benefits.
Further and Related Reading
- Sun Smart Series – Part 1: Get to Know the UV Index
- Sun Smart Series – Part 2: Get to Know Your Skin
- Sun Smart Series – Part 3: Get to Know the Sun
- Sun Smart Series – Part 4: Get to Know Sunscreen
- Sun Smart Series – Part 5: Maximize the Benefits, Minimize the Risks
- Does Safe Sunscreen Exist? Rethinking Our Relationship With This Popular Chemical