A recent National Cancer Institute study reveals that the rate of deadly melanoma jumped 50% in young women yet stayed the same in young men between 1973 and 2004.
What’s behind this trend? Is it mainstream medicine’s belief that women get too much sun exposure?
Let’s see. Sales of sun care products have grown substantially in the past 30-plus years. According to a cosmetic and toiletry report, the global market for sun care products is expected to grow 6% per year to $4.8 billion by 2011.1
Yet the cases of melanoma continue to grow.2
Could it be that the more likely culprit is the sunscreen itself?
Sunscreens block UV rays, eliminating your body’s ability to make vitamin D. Research indicates that vitamin D is the most potent cancer fighter there is. In fact, a Nebraska University report says that vitamin D has the potential to lower the risk of all cancers in women over 50 by 77%.3
Moreover, several common sunscreen ingredients have dangerous, even cancer-causing, side effects. Yet they have never been safety tested or safety approved by the FDA. So make sure to check your sunscreen for the following ingredients…
- Oxybenzone, sometimes called Benzophenone-3, is linked to allergies, hormone disruption, low birth weights, cell damage, and more. It also helps other chemicals penetrate the skin.4 The Center for Disease Control says 97% of Americans have this chemical in their system.
- Octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC) kills skin cells.
- PABA, also known as octyl-dimethyl and padimate-O, attacks DNA and causes genetic mutation when it is exposed to sunlight.
Sunscreen is in lip balm, make-up, moisturizers and more. In one study of more than 10,000 teenagers, girls were 34.4% more likely to use sunscreen than boys were.
If you really want to protect yourself from skin cancer, go outside! All you need is about 20 minutes a day of unprotected sun exposure to get your daily dose of vitamin D.
An Anticancer Research study found that just by getting a little sunlight every day – about 20 minutes for fair-skinned people and two to four times that much for those with dark skin – could reduce the risk of 17 types of cancer.5
If you plan to spend more than 20 minutes of fun in the sun, there are natural ways to protect yourself. Here are some tips.
- Get enough antioxidants, one of your best lines of defense against all types of skin damage.
- Vitamin D. Take 1,000 to 2,000 IEUs per day, particularly during the winter or if you live in cold, damp climates with little sunlight.
- Vitamin C. Fights free radicals, reduces inflammation, and boosts immune response. Take 500 mg twice per day with food.
- Vitamin E. Great for skin health. I recommend 400 IU per day. Look for vitamin E as “mixed tocopherols” on the label. They are the organic compounds most readily absorbed by your body.
- Alpha-Lipoic Acid. A powerful antioxidant that protects skin cells from free radicals, guards their mitochondria (the power plant of every cell), and pumps up your cancer defense mechanisms. I recommend 200 mg to 400 mg daily.
- Get enough omega-3s. Studies show that omega 6:3 ratio is important in preventing skin cancer.6 A tablespoon of cod liver oil a day will replenish your omega-3 levels and keep your skin looking young and fresh. It will also give you a boost of vitamin D in its most natural form.
- Try rubbing a little mango butter or shea butter on your skin as a sun blocker without the toxic chemicals. You can also use zinc oxide, a natural mineral that provides a reflective barrier on your skin. You can find these in most health food and supplement stores.
To Your Good Health
Al Sears, MD
- Kate Phillips. “Bright Outlook for Sun Care Market, Suppliers Absorb Growth”, Chemicalweek.com. 4/4/07
- American Cancer Society. Overview: Skin Cancer – Melanoma. www.Cancer.org. viewed 2/10/09.
- Lappe et al. “Vitamin D Status in a Rural Postmenopausal Female Population”. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2006; 25(5):395-402.
- Carrie Gouldin. “CDC: Caving to Industry, FDA Delays Safety Standards for Decades”, Environmental Working Group, http://www.ewg.org, 3/25/08
- Grant WB et al, “The association of solar ultraviolet B (UVB) with reducing risk of cancer: multifactorial ecologic analysis of geographic variation in age-adjusted cancer mortality rates,” Anticancer Research, 2006; 26:2687-2700.
- Guangming Liu, et al. “Omega 3 but not Omega 6 fatty acids inhibit AP-1 activity and cell transformation in JB6 cells”. Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota, 2001.