It’s blazing hot out, and we know that sunstroke, heatstroke and sun poisoning can be very dangerous, but don’t believe the myth that the sun is hazardous and that sunscreen is protective! There is little scientific evidence to justify the many health campaigns that urge you to avoid unprotected sun exposure. The potential of natural sunlight to harm you has been greatly blown out of proportion by doctors, health officials, and sunscreen manufacturers, all of whom would have you believe that you need to stay out of the sun because the sun will hurt you. This simply isn’t true. In fact, numerous studies show that the sun is healthy for you, and that appropriate sun exposure could actually save your life!
UVA vs UVB
Moderate sun exposure to the right kind of sun rays is the key. Ultraviolet light from the sun comes in two main wavelengths – UVA and UVB. UVA is dangerous because it penetrates the skin more deeply and causes more free radical damage, and these rays are quite constant during all daylight hours throughout the entire year. UVB is the healthful wavelength that is especially high at midday (so forget those warnings to avoid the noon sun!) UVB exposure helps your skin produce vitamin D.
Wearing a sunscreen on your uncovered skin blocks your body’s production of vitamin D by as much as 99.9%. And this may have dire health consequences. Vitamin D (really more of a hormone than a vitamin) plays a crucial role in our overall health. Not only does vitamin D help support cardiovascular health, promote optimal cholesterol levels, enhance muscle strength, produce optimal blood pressure levels, maintain a healthy immune system, support healthy kidney function, promote healthy teeth, and strengthen our bones – but it can also prevent many forms of cancer –Including skin cancer!
Does Sun Exposure Cause Cancer?
It is true that long-term, excessive exposure to sunlight can increase the risk of certain types of skin cancer. But moderate sun exposure is less dangerous than sporadic intense sunburn, and several studies have confirmed that appropriate sun exposure actually helps prevent skin cancer. There’s a good deal of evidence that sun exposure without sunburn significantly decreases the risk of developing melanoma (the most deadly form of skin cancer). Melanoma is actually more common among indoor workers than outdoor workers, and it is more common on regions of the body that are not exposed to the sun at all. Bottom line, melanoma risk can be increased by lack of exposure to sunshine and long-term exposure to indoor fluorescent lighting.
One study actually revealed that patients already diagnosed with melanoma who had higher levels of sun exposure were less likely to die than other melanoma patients, and were prone to a less aggressive tumor type. An Italian study, published in the European Journal of Cancer in June 2008, confirms and supports earlier studies showing improved survival rates in melanoma patients who were exposed to sunlight more frequently in the period before their melanoma was diagnosed.
Moreover, sunlight exposure has also been shown to protect against as many as 16 different types of cancer, including breast, colon, endometrial, esophageal, ovarian, bladder, gallbladder, gastric, pancreatic, prostate, rectal, and renal cancers, as well as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
And, although you can get vitamin D from food sources and nutritional supplements, natural sunlight is by far the best way to get your vitamin D. As soon as the sun’s ultraviolet rays strike your skin, your body starts producing its own natural vitamin D in its most active form – calciferol (vitamin D3). Vitamin D3 is actually the precise form your body needs for the proper functioning of your organs and cells. And luckily, our bodies automatically generate enough of it with virtually no risk of overdose, whereas if you are obtaining your vitamin D strictly from oral supplements, you could get into the toxic dose range.
Sunscreen — Good and Bad
So the body needs some unprotected sun exposure. But we know that the risk of getting skin cancer increases in relationship to sunburn frequency and severity. So what should you do? Limiting excessive sun exposure, wearing protective clothing, and using sunscreen can help reduce the risk of skin cancer and other harmful effects of the sun. If you have to be in the direct rays of the sun for a long period of time without having the opportunity to gradually build up to it, or if you are unable to block the sun with protective clothing, do use a sunscreen to help guard against sunburn. But don’t use commercial sunscreen, cautions Dr. Joseph Mercola: “It’s time to expose the sunscreen smokescreen!”
Unfortunately, on the market today are hundreds of harmful sunscreen products containing toxic chemicals which can cause serious health problems and increase our risk of disease. The main chemical used in sunscreen to filter out ultraviolet B light (why would we want to do that?) is octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC). OMC was found to kill mouse cells even at low doses, and its toxicity was increased when exposed to sunshine! A common ultraviolet A filter, butylmethoxydibenzoyl-methane, has also demonstrated toxic properties.
Furthermore, several studies show that the chemicals commonly used in sunscreens are absorbed through the skin and end up circulating in your blood stream. Mercola cautions that “If your sunscreen contains any of these chemicals that I consider dangerous and potentially life-threatening, do yourself a BIG favor and dump it in the trash now.” These questionable chemicals include PABA (para amino benzoic acid), octyl salicyclate, avobenzone, cinoxate, padimate O, phenylbenzimidazole, homosalate, sulisobenzone, methyl anthranilate, trolamine salicyclate, octocrylene, and especially oxybenzone and dioxybenzone, two of the most powerful free radical generators known to man!
And for you moms who are undoubtedly very conscientious about protecting your children: When you lather up your son or daughter with sunscreen thinking you’re doing the right thing, you could in fact be doing more harm than good.
So What Can You Do?
We at BeatCancer.org recommend that you learn about all-natural sunscreens at or check out www.mercola.com, where an all-natural sunscreen option made with zinc oxide (used as a safe sunscreen for 75 years) and green tea (which contains powerful anti-oxidants and anti-cancer agents) is offered.
There are also simple lifestyle changes you can make to radically decrease your risk of sunburn, such as increasing raw vegetable loaded with skin protecting antioxidant phytonutrients, avoiding processed foods and sugars, and drinking plenty of pure water. To learn more about skin cancer, check out The Skin Cancer Breakthrough by Kurt Greenberg. And have fun in the sun!