The Sunlight Myth: Why the Sun is Your Friend and Sunblock is Not

This is a guest post by Dr. Michael Teplitsky, author of Nutrition and Your Health. His book is a great guide to the basics of real food eating, including why saturated fat and cholesterol are healthy, which supplements are the best and much more. I think this is a great resource, plus coming from a doctor it could be a good way to get those stubborn relatives into real food, too! You can read my interview with Dr. Teplitsky at this post and find out more about his book here.

There is a myth that sunlight causes deadly cancer. Most people have been brainwashed into believing this. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on useless toxic sunblocks that actually increase their cancer risk.

The truth is very simple. The more sun exposure you have, the lower is your risk of 13 different cancers, including cancer of the breast, colon, ovaries, bladder, uterus, prostate, esophagus, rectum, and stomach.

Men who do not get enough sun have double the risk of prostate cancer. Women who stay away from the sun are 5 times more likely to get breast cancer. One study published in the journal Cancer in 2002 estimated that almost 22,000 people die from cancer every year because of low sun exposure. The authors conclude, “thus, many lives could be extended through increased exposure to solar UV-B radiation (ultraviolet B rays from the sun).”

But what about skin cancer? Good question. There are 3 main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most frequent, followed by squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and malignant melanoma.

Both BCC and SCC are quite common, there are about a million cases per year. Both can be easily detected and removed and are considered medically quite minor.

Malignant melanoma, on the other hand, can be deadly. It can spread through the body if not caught early. It causes the majority of skin cancer deaths.

Melanoma was very rare in 1950s and has been increasing ever since. In 2010 there will be more than 70,000 cases of malignant melanoma per year, with almost 8,500 deaths. Just 10 years ago there were 40,000 cases and 7,000 deaths. In other words, the incidence of malignant melanoma has been steadily going up for the last 50-60 years despite increasing use of sunscreens.

Both BCC and SCC have been linked to sunburns. This makes sense, because a burn can cause skin damage which can eventually lead to all kind of problems. Any burn, whether caused by the sun or by a fire, can damage your skin. But if you avoid sunburns you will be okay, no matter how much you stay in the sun.

In fact, most recent data shows that exposure to sun actually prevents skin cancer, including the most dangerous one – melanoma. Many studies show that in Europe and the United States, the higher the sun explore, the lower the risk of melanoma.

But why do you hear exactly the opposite information? Because it sells a lot of sunscreen products.

The Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF) is the organization that is mostly responsible for the recommendation to use sunscreens. Every spring they issue a press release advising liberal use of these products. It may not surprise you to learn that SCF receives major funding from the sunscreen industry.

People are spending millions of dollars on sunscreens every year and someone is making a lot of money. These sunscreens are useless, toxic, and can even be increasing your risk of cancer by blocking the UV-B light that you need to produce vitamin D. One thing is clear – they do not reduce the risk of melanoma.

The rates of skin cancer have been going up in the last 50 years, while the sale of sunscreens is through the roof. In the last 30 years they went from just a few millions dollars per year to well over half a billion.

By preventing you from making vitamin D they actually increase your risk of various cancers, muscular weakness, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, schizophrenia and depression, not to mention weak bones.

Finally, there is compelling evidence that melanoma is not caused by the sun. Most cases of melanoma occur in the parts of the body that are not very exposed to sunlight, such as the soles of the feet, buttocks, etc. Lots of studies show that the incidence and mortality from melanoma actually decrease with increased exposure to the sun. Studies that have examined the relationship between sunscreen use and melanoma show that they either have no effect or actually increase the risk. Plus, while it’s easy to produce SCC or BSS experimentally by ultraviolet light, it is very difficult to cause melanoma using the same method.

According to an article in the British Medical Journal (July 2008), “the effect of ultraviolet light can only be minimal, and the case against a major role is clear.” In other words, ultraviolet light has no major role as the cause of melanoma. They also refute the theory that melanoma may be caused by sunburns experienced early in life. If that were true, melanoma would mostly be found in the parts of the body that are usually exposed to the sun, which is not the case at all. So get out and get some sun, it’s good for you. Just don’t get sunburned.

This post is a part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade.

Follow Me on Pinterest