The relationship between sun exposure and our health may not be as straightforward as we have been made to believe. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States with the most lethal form of skin cancer being melanoma. The sun has always been linked to be the cause of this condition.
It is claimed that too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can damage the DNA in skin cells. If enough DNA damage occurs over time, this can build up and cause your cells to start growing erratically, which can lead to skin cancer.
Could Sunscreen Cause Skin Cancer?
Sunscreen was created to prevent skin cancer and has been thought to protect us - until recently. Think about it. If the sun was the only factor causing skin cancer and sunscreen prevented it, we’d be cancer-free by now based on statistics. Not to mention we are spending less time outside than ever before with the increased work week and more technology jobs that keeps workers inside.
The use of sunscreen has increased dramatically over the past 30 years. Reports show over 60% of adults apply sunscreen to protect themselves from the sun. This rate is increasing yearly along with sales that show more than a 20-fold growth to fuel a $400 million business. Yet the occurrence of melanoma has also been on the rise while sales have been exploding over the same time period.
Sunscreen companies claim over 90 percent of melanomas are attributed to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Regular daily use of an SPF 15 or higher can reduce the risk of developing melanoma by 50 percent. When people wear sunscreen, particularly high protection sun block, we tend to believe we can stay in the sun as long as we like. However, this behavior is reinforced by the belief that we are safe, which leads people to being dangerously exposed to excessive radiation and possibly sun poisoning. The American Cancer Society recommends sunscreen should be used as a filter, not a reason to stay longer in the sun. They recommend other methods of sun protection, even when properly using sunscreen, such as hats, sunglasses, clothing and shade.
According to the National Cancer Institute, there will be 68,720 new cases of melanoma, and 8,650 people will die from it this year. The risk of melanoma is more than 10 times higher for whites than for African-Americans, particularly for fair-skinned Caucasians with red or blond hair who burn easily.
Dr. Sam Shuster, a dermatologist and honorary consultant at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in the UK, states, “Melanoma cases occur on relatively unexposed sites of the body... There is no evidence that melanomas occur at sunburn sites on the body.” Dr. Shuster acknowledges that the sun is responsible for some skin cancers, like basal and squamous cell, but says they are virtually benign. He adds, “If sunscreen was important, we’d expect it to decrease the incidence of melanoma over the years as more and more people become accustomed to using it. But that hasn’t happened; it has actually increased.” Medical experts agree that sun can cause wrinkling and the generally aging of the skin, but now some researchers wonder if UV rays have anything to do with melanoma.
So what is causing it? It comes down to what type of sunscreen you are using and the health of your body. Sunscreen can be effective and is important, but it’s also important to have at least sun exposure 20 minutes a day for your daily dose of Vitamin D. More time in the sun after that requires protection. There are two types of sunscreen, chemical and physical.
Chemical sunscreens need to be applied 20 minutes before exposure. They are effective but need to be reapplied every hour. However, once applied, chemical sunscreens soak into your body and bloodstream. They do not pass through your liver so substances scatters toxically and can be detected in the blood, urine, and breast milk for up to two days after just one application. Some generate DNA-damaging chemicals called “free radicals,” which may lead to cancers.
Sunscreen that contains chemicals includes oxybenzone that may interfere with the thyroid and other hormone processes in the body. This chemical has been found in 96% of the population according to the C.D.C. What’s also alarming is that it is considered an endocrine disruptor which affects reproduction in men and women. Also avoid using spray sunscreen or be careful not to inhale it because many sunscreens also contain a chemical called methylisothiazolinone which the Dermatitis Society named “Allergen of the Year.”
Another type of sunscreen is mineral, also known as physical, such as lotion with Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide that sit on top of the skin, forming a barrier against the sun’s rays. These types are usually rated safer.
However, Consumer Reports tested major brands of both types of sunscreen and found more than 40% of do not live up to their SPF claims. In fact, whereas two products claimed to have an SPF of 50, test results came back with an actual SPF of 8.
Their defense was that they met the FDA’s requirements and that is what mattered. Is it when it’s not protecting us and, in addition, hurting us? If you feel you must use sunscreen, make sure you are using it right. Check the labels, do your research, and don’t forget to reapply.
If you are against sunscreen, there are ways to protect yourself naturally. Sunburn is actually caused by nutritional deficiencies that leave the skin vulnerable to DNA mutations from radiation; but if you boost your nutrition and protect your nervous system with plant-based nutrients, you will naturally be resistant to a sunburn. Start eating lots of berries and microalgae (spirulina and blue-green algae). You’ll build up an internal sunscreen that will protect your skin from sunburn from the inside out. Cover up your body with UV-protected clothing as not all protects you from the rays. Or better yet, make your own sunscreen. There are multiple recipes online that can last up to six months – a perfect amount time to get you through the summer.
Bottom line, enjoy the summer and don’t fears the rays. Simply get your dose of Vitamin D, cover up, sit back and relax… that’s what these warm days are for.
Written by Dr. Scott Mindel. View published article in the Ville Magazine 2016 July/August Entertainment issue.