The Whole Truth About Sunlight, Cancer and Sunscreens

Humans have been living on this Earth for at least four million years. The sun has been shining for about 4.6 billion years and it has been shining on our Earth for most of that time. Strangely, no animal ever contracted skin cancer from being out in the sun and humans rarely did until about 50 years ago.

We have been told that this increase in skin cancer is due to a “hole” in the ozone layer. Actually there is no “hole”. However, the ozone layer is thinning in some areas, predominately at the South Pole in the fall and winter seasons. The ozone layer, approximately 10 kilometers (6 miles) above the earth, acts as a shield to prevent dangerous radiation from reaching the biosphere. There is also a minor amount of thinning in the northern hemisphere and little or none in the tropics.

The incidence of all forms of skin cancer are highest in the tropics, where there is virtually no thinning of the ozone layer.

In 1991 Professor Johan Moan of the Norwegian Cancer Institute found that the yearly incidence of melanoma in Norway had increased by 350% for men and by 440% for women between 1957 and 1984. He also determined that there had been no change in the ozone layer over this period of time. He concludes his report in the British Journal of Cancer by stating: “Ozone depletion is not the cause of the increase in skin cancers”. Unless these folks spent a fair amount of time hanging out in the Antarctic wearing bikinis, he is probably correct.

Skin cancer has increased all over the world, about 90% in the USA from 1974-1990. This skin cancer increase is too large (90%) compared with the expected value (40%) from ozone depletion. Also, cancer does not develop immediately after exposure to the sun. The sunburns may occur within hours, but cancer development and detection may take years or decades. If the depletion of the ozone layer over Antarctica is not causing the huge increase in skin cancer, what is?

It is interesting to note that chemical sunscreen was introduced in the late 1920′s and by 1936 the first commercially available sunscreen product was being sold by L’Oreal. Also, Monsanto began producing artificial chemicals in 1901. Why is this bit of information important?

First, let’s take a look at our skin, and the damage we do to it before we even go out into the sun.

There are an estimated 250 species of bacteria that reside on your skin. They are there for a reason. Sebum, secreted by the sebaceous glands in the skin, is an oily substance composed of wax monoesters, triglycerides, free fatty acids and squalene, and again, it is there for a reason. These bacteria and oily substances PROTECT the skin. We seem to have invented endless ways to destroy this protective barrier starting with the water we bathe, shower and swim in. A survey by the Environmental Working Group found 141 unregulated chemicals and an additional 119 for which the Environmental Protection Agency has set health-based limits. Most common among the chemicals found were disinfection byproducts, nitrates, chloroform, barium, arsenic and copper, and of course chlorine, fluoride and PCBs ,THMs and heavy metals. These chemicals not only strip the skin of its natural protection, they are absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream where they continue to cause damage.

We also have a tendency to destroy this protective barrier with various chemicals and soaps. We slather our skin with every toxic chemical imaginable, most of which gets absorbed into our bloodstream. There are over 150 cancer-causing chemicals currently used in cosmetics. Although federal law requires products containing these ingredients to carry a written warning label, the FDA does not enforce this law. The FDA claims that these products are safe because they are not consumed orally. Can it be possible that the folks at the FDA are not aware of the many drugs that are administered through the skin because the skin is porous and allows most drugs and chemicals to be absorbed?

You would be amazed to find what the FDA allows to be sold as long as it says, “for external use only.” The assumption is that it will stay external and not be absorbed into the body, so its toxicity is irrelevant. Hello!! Who are we kidding? Sunscreen ingredients absorb into the blood, and most are linked to toxic effects. Some release skin-damaging free radicals in sunlight, some disrupt hormone systems, several are strongly linked to allergic reactions, and others build up in the body or the environment. According to the Environmental Working Group only 15% of 952 products analyzed actually block UVA and UVB radiation, remain stable in sunlight, and contain few toxic chemicals.

Here is a short list of some of the stuff we regularly put on our skin without a second thought. The toxic effects recognized by the FDA are included:

(Active Ingredient)858%Developmental/reproductive toxicity, Violations, Restrictions & Warnings, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Persistence and bioaccumulation, Enhanced skin absorption, Biochemical or cellular level changes

PEG-100 STEARATE 479%Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Contamination concerns

(ETHYLENE OXIDE 1,4DIOXANETRIETHANOLAMINE767%Cancer, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Contamination concerns

(Active Ingredient)276%Violations, Restrictions & Warnings, Persistence and bioaccumulation, Occupational hazards

TITANIUM DIOXIDE 173%Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Occupational hazards, Biochemical or cellular level changes

(Active Ingredient)478%Allergies/immunotoxicity, Persistence and bioaccumulation, Enhanced skin absorption, Biochemical or cellular level changes

BUTYLPARABEN 477%Developmental/reproductive toxicity, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Biochemical or cellular level changes

There are HUNDREDS more but I don’t want to bore you here, just WAKE you up!! Is it logical to cover yourself with this stuff, then go out into the sun and let it bake in? Geez, you can cause untold damage to your largest external organ AND your internal organs simultaneously!

The sun is NOT your enemy! Sure, in some areas at some times you will have to spend less time in the sun to avoid getting burned, but sunlight is VITAL. Sunlight allows your body to produce natural vitamin D and increased melatonin, both of which are essential.

Vitamin D levels are linked to survival rates for cancer patients. Those people who live in sunnier southern latitudes and have higher vitamin D levels are less likely to die from cancer than people in northern latitudes.

Rates of major cancers such as colon, lung, breast and prostate increased from north to south, while survival rates decreased from north to south.

Vitamin D may protect against cancer by discouraging out-of-control cell reproduction and hindering the formation of new blood vessels for tumors. Receptors that respond to vitamin D have been found in almost every cell in your body, from your brain to your bones. Optimizing your vitamin D levels, (through safe sun exposure) could help you to prevent as many as 16 different types of cancer including pancreatic, lung, breast, ovarian, prostate, and colon cancers. Vitamin D does not just impact your cancer risk slightly; it can cut your risk by as much as 60 %.

This is not to say that you should not be cautious. A severe burn is obviously damaging. However, a mild sunburn is not dangerous as long as the skin has been allowed to retain its natural protective barrier and is not marinated in a chemical cocktail. A slight sunburn is your body’s natural way of letting you know that it’s time to get out of the sun, it also helps to remove the outermost layer of dead skin with fresh new skin, thus reducing wrinkles! People pay money for this, it’s called “dermabrasion” and “chemical peels”, you can have it done naturally at no charge by getting a mild sunburn.

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