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Did you know that despite the invention of sunscreen, cases of skin cancers have doubled? Elizabeth Plourde, Ph.D., is a California-based scientist who has shown that malignant melanoma and all other skin cancers increased significantly with ubiquitous sunscreen use over a 30-year period. Sunscreens contain chemicals that are known carcinogens and endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC).

Sun Exposure is Helpful In Moderation

Firstly, the sun doesn’t harm us. It only nourishes us. There’s even really good science to prove this. One of the latest major studies was published by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden in 2014.
They conducted a study that found women who avoided lying out in the sun were actually TWICE as likely to die compared to those who make sunbathing a daily ritual.

This wasn’t a small study either. It looked at 30,000 women for a period of 20 years!

Types of Sun Rays

Ultraviolet B rays (UVB) are the primary cause of sunburn and non-melanoma skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma. The chemicals that form a product’s sun protection factor are aimed at blocking those UVB rays.

Ultraviolet A rays (UVA) penetrate deeper into the skin and are harder to block. Scientists know less about the dangers of UVA radiation and this could potentially be very dangerous. The general consensus now is that while UVA ray damage is much less obvious than UVB, it is probably a lot more serious!!

False Sense Of Security

A sunscreen lotion’s SPF rating has little to do with the product’s ability to shield the skin from UVA rays (this is because UVA and UVB protection do not harmonize). High-SPF products suppress sunburn from UVB but not other types of sun damage. Therefore they tend to lull users into staying in the sun longer and overexposing themselves to both UVA and UVB rays.
Since people think they are ‘protected’ they tend to extend their time in the sun well past the point when users of low-SPF products or natural oils head indoors. As a result, while the users of conventional sunscreen may get less UVB-inflicted sunburns as unprotected sunbathers, they are more likely to absorb more damaging UVA radiation (which studies are still inconclusive as to cancer-causing effects).

Philippe Autier, a scientist formerly with the International Agency for Research on Cancer and part of the World Health Organization, has conducted numerous studies on sunbathers and believes that high-SPF products spur “profound changes in sun behavior” that may account for the increased melanoma risk found in some studies. We think we can now spend the whole day at the beach without having to retreat to cover.

The Chemicals involved:

High SPF products require higher concentrations of sun-filtering chemicals than low SPF sunscreens or natural oils. Some of these ingredients may pose health risks when they penetrate the skin. They have been linked to tissue damage, potential hormone disruption and may trigger allergic skin reactions especially oxybenzones.

If studies showed that high SPF products were better at reducing skin damage and skin cancer risk, then perhaps this extra chemical exposure might be justified. But since they don’t offer any benefit, then choosing alternative sunscreens really start to look a whole lot more appealing.

Natural Sun Protection

When we are outside the light that comes into our eyes sends signals to the pituitary gland which triggers hormones to be released for skin protection.

Sun exposure if most damaging between 10AM and 4PM so cover up with a hat shirt etc during those times. Mineral sunscreens will offer some benefit from burning but covering up at peak times is critical. Natural oils such as carrot and raspeberry as well as grapeseed offer sun protection in the vicinities of 4 to 11 SPF. Enjoy the sun, as in all things, in moderation.

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Taryn DeCicco, ND, LAc, LDN
Clinical Nutritionist
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Arlington Heights, IL

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Author's Bio: 

Dr Taryn DeCicco ND, LAc, LDN of Apple A Day Clinic in Arlington Heights, IL has been practicing Naturopathy and Acupuncture, specializing in acne, skin, and digestive disorders for over 16 years.