Do you slap on the sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun’s deadly rays? Over the years society has come to believe through media push and doctors that the same astronomical body that is the cornerstone in making life possible here on earth is plotting to kill you. Yes! The very object that feeds and nourishes all vegetation on earth through photosynthesis is to be feared and protected against at all costs. Forget SPF 2, 10 or even 15 – give us SPF 45. Cover yourself from head to toe with radiation shielding body armour (aka a shirt and a hat) and hide in the protection of your air-conditioned house – Save yourself!…but is it all true or have we taken a well-meant suggestion and blown it out of massive proportion to the point of causing bodily harm?
An article from June 2014 in The Independent (UK) (1) explored the research from a major study conducted by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden that found women who avoided sunbathing were twice as likely to die as those who sunbathed daily. This extensive study followed 30,000 women for 20 years with researchers finding the mortality rate was double in women who avoided the sun when compared to women who did not. This research has led to the conclusion that the conventional dogma of avoiding the sun and using large amounts of sunscreen to protect from solar radiation is doing more harm than actual good. This is because overall sun avoidance combined with wearing a heavy amount of sunscreen blocks the body’s ability to produce vitamin D3 from the sun’s UVB rays, which is the optimal form of vitamin D.
With Vitamin D deficiency reaching epidemic levels, it’s ironic to find social dogma in such a dilemma. Is it good science or is it a good wive’s tale? On one hand, family physicians are still promoting to protect yourself from the sun yet are prescribing vitamin D supplements. In fact, according to Consumer Reports, vitamin D sales have soared from $40 million in 2001 to $425 million in 2011. That is an increase of 1062% in just 10 years. (2)
Vitamin D protects the body from diseases like multiple sclerosis, rickets, tuberculosis, inflammatory bowel disease, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, as well as helping with the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Additionally, a 2011 study published in Cancer Prevention Research suggests that vitamin D actually offers protection against sunburn AND skin cancer. In fact, a well-known dermatologist specializing in skin cancer, Bernard Ackerman, MD made several claims to this effect stating, “There is no real proof that sunscreens protect again melanoma, and there’s no proof that increased exposure to the sun increases the risk of melanoma” (3). A 2000 Swedish study concurs with Dr. Ackerman’s findings that higher rates of melanoma occurred in those who used sunscreen versus those who did not.(4)
But alas, what about all the hype that the sun’s rays are more deadly than they used to be? What about global warming? What about the idea that our skin burns much quicker than it used to? There is truth to this mixed with a lot of hype. If our sun exposure is less than it has been in the past – surprise, as a whole society will burn much faster. Tanning is the body’s natural defence to protect from burns. A tan is damaged skin cells on the surface layers of your skin. This, in turn, provides an SPF rating of approximately 4. That means from that point on it will take 4 times longer to burn than if you are pasty white. If you are fair complexioned and you normally burn in 15 minutes, then with a tan, it will take 1 hour of full sun to result in the same burn. There is far greater research to show that a sunburn is more dangerous to your health than a tan. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “The sun exposure pattern believed to result in melanoma is that of brief, intense exposure – a blistering sunburn – rather than years of tanning. (Some studies now indicate that basal cell carcinoma also may be triggered by this exposure pattern.)” (5)
Excessive protective measures never go as planned and almost always result in multiple sunburns throughout the season. Do yourself, your health, and your family’s health some good, get naked and blend in to your native environment. Leave the chemical laden Sunblock behind. Take the good advice originally given by doctors and shed off your body armour. Get some sun, get some Vitamin D, and do it in moderation! That’s what we were all told years ago before for it was blown out of proportion – Everything IN MODERATION…and that includes using sunscreen!
– Kelly Taylor-Faye, Riverstone Studios – Eco-Body Care