Thursday, June 9, 2016

Do sunscreens really protect you against skin cancer?

Now that summer is upon us, warnings are everywhere telling people to “Avoid direct sunlight!” and “Don’t go outside without sunscreen!”

So, many people dutifully slather themselves up before they dare set foot outside.

But is the sun really the evil, skin-cancer-creating monster it’s been made out to be?  And are sunscreens all they’re cracked up to be?

I have some doubts, and here’s why you should too:

History speaks for itself
Sunscreen was first brought to market in 1936, introduced by the founder of L'Oreal cosmetics, French chemist Eugène Schueller.

So it only follows that prior to 1936, people were keeling over in massive numbers from skin cancer, right?

Not exactly.

And what’s, even more, concerning is the fact that even though we are using more sunscreen than ever before in our existence, our rates of skin cancer still continue to rise!

It’s not cut and dry
The whole skin cancer issue is not cut and dry, and many people are misinformed about a number of things.

First of all, there are three types of skin cancer—basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma (which are rarely fatal) and melanoma (which is the deadliest).  Most skin cancer cases involve basal and squamous cell carcinomas.

Basal and squamous cell cancers are strongly related to UV exposure over a period of years.  Studies have shown that some sunscreens do help lower the risk of squamous cell carcinoma, but not necessarily basal cell carcinoma.

Melanoma, on the other hand, is associated with sunburn, especially sunburns you get early in life.  But interestingly, melanoma often appears on areas of the body that rarely are exposed to the sun—so the puzzle Is missing a few pieces.

Plus studies have not conclusively determined that sunscreen protects you against melanoma.  Some studies suggest a positive outcome, some show no difference, and even others have shown an increased risk of melanoma with sunscreen use!

The dark side of shunning the sun
Shunning the sun does have a dark side (no pun intended)—because your body needs UV light exposure from the sun to make vitamin D.

Vitamin D protects you against cancer, so in effect by avoiding the sun because you’re scared of skin cancer, you’re actually raising your risk of other cancers!

All sunscreens are not created equal
This is arguably the most important point of all.  Many sunscreens are not only not completely effective, but up to 75 percent of them are downright toxic!

First of all, a product needs to shield you from both UVA and UVB radiation, as both of these can increase your skin cancer risk with overexposure.  But many sunscreens only protect against UVB rays, which are the rays that your body uses to make vitamin D.

So you’re getting only half the protection yet at the same time are shutting down your body’s vitamin D production!

And many commercial sunscreens are loaded with these toxic ingredients and should be avoided at all cost:
  • Para amino benzoic acid
  • Octyl salicyclate
  • Oxybenzone
  • Cinoxate
  • Dioxybenzone
  • Phenylbenzimidazole
  • Homosalate
  • Menthyl anthranilate
  • Octocrylene
  • Methoxycinnamate
  • Parabens
A smart approach
Clearly, completely shunning the sun is not necessarily in your best interest, nor is slathering potentially toxic sunscreen on your skin or thinking you have free reign to roast yourself like a turkey because you have sunscreen on!

Here is a smart approach to getting healthier sun exposure and still protecting yourself:

Take care of your skin from the inside out!  
This means eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, drinking plenty of water, getting enough omega-3 essential fatty acids (fish oil formulas like VitalMega-3 can help) and getting enough protective antioxidants, vitamin B3 and vitamin D.  Super Core has health-supporting levels of all of these, plus many more vitamins, minerals, and anti-inflammatories.

Get 20-30 minutes of unprotected sun exposure each day
This will help allow your skin to naturally produce vitamin D as it was designed to.

Protect for longer exposure
If you stay in the sun for longer than 30 minutes, it’s time to protect yourself.  Options include wearing light clothing, sitting under an umbrella, or wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.

As far as sunscreens go, be sure to choose “broad protection” (UVA and UVB) mineral-based varieties that do not contain the harmful ingredients listed above.  I use Badger® SPF15 but there are many great brands out there including True Natural®, Kiss My Face® and Bare Belly Organics®.

Never, EVER get a sunburn
If you see your skin going from a healthy light pink or tan to red, get out of the sun immediately and put some aloe vera and/or vitamin E gel on your skin.

Enjoy the sun the way you’re supposed to—safely and healthfully!

To your health,

Sherry Brescia

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