As we slide towards summer, I’d love to encourage you to get outside and get grounded to our earth as much as possible. This brings up concerns about skin cancer and photo aging effects from sun exposure — but don’t let that stop you from going outside. Here’s why:
A large medical study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine found that folks who avoided sun exposure actually had a shorter life span… with a decreased life expectancy that was shorter than even heavy smokers who bathed in the sun.
This was a huge study looked at almost 30,000 participants over a span of 20 years. Researchers tracked health outcomes and life span over two decades and found that even when smoking was factored in, the life span of those who avoided the sun was more than 2 years shorter than heavy smokers who got the highest amount of sun exposure!!!
As hard as it is to believe, even heavy smokers who soaked in the sun their whole life outlived non-smokers who avoided sun exposure… by years!
Participants who avoided the sun had higher rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and pulmonary disease.
And the results were dose-specific… meaning that the benefits of increased life expectancy with sun exposure went up directly in correlation to the amount of sun exposure.
Though risk of skin cancer did increase with increased sun exposure, the patients that had skin cancer occur in relation to sun exposure actually had a better long-term prognosis. This on top of recent research revealing that melanomas that occur in patients with low Vitamin D actually have more malignantly aggressive melanoma and their prognosis is worse than those with adequate Vit D from sun exposure.
These results show that avoiding the sun is a “risk factor for death of a similar magnitude as smoking” directly quoting the medical report.
So the verdict: under-exposure to the sun is actually dangerous.
Turns out, longer time in the sun correlates with a longer life span. It’s that simple.
Smoking and inactivity (or prolonged sitting) have long been known to be huge lifestyle indicators of poor long term health… and now we can add a third: avoiding sun exposure.
You know that I never ever ever present negative medical information without giving you tons of positive solutions!! So you know if I am bringing it up on my blog here, then there are TONS of things you can do to make your time out in the sunshine safer for your skin, while boosting your whole-body disease prevention and prolonging your life span!
Today I want to share with you why sunscreen is not my number one recommendation for prevention of skin cancer. Nor is it my second recommendation either. I prefer to avoid peak sun hours and use sun protective clothing like rashguards, hats and sunglasses.
- Many chemicals in sunscreen (like the oils, petroleum products, oxybenzone, avobenzone, formaldehyde, retinyl palmitate, etc… found in most chemical sunscreens) have been shown to actually increase cancer rates.
- On top of that, many of the chemicals in chemical blocking sunscreens are shown to disrupt our natural hormone pathways. In fact, oxybenzone, the most common chemical sunscreen used, has been shown to disrupt hormones and is not even recommended for use in children. That’s right… look at all the “kid’s formula” sunscreens out there… they generally contain oxybenzone. This chemical not only is a hormone-disruptor, but after applying to your skin it becomes internally absorbed within minutes. Which means children, who are still growing, are getting systemic doses of hormone-disrupting oxybenzone circulating through their bodies on a daily basis all summer long. Yuck.
- More bad news… mineral based sunscreens are increasingly being made in nano-sized particles so that they blend into the skin better… and unfortunately, this means they can potentially be absorbed systemically as well. Even mineral based sunscreens like zinc or titanium dioxide are potentially toxic if they enter your body, so you want to be sure your product does not use nanoparticles.
And in fact, a study (presented at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting on Nov 19, 2016) shows that sunscreen did not reduce melanoma risk.
- 466 children (enrolled in the study at age 6) were followed for almost a decade (through age 15) with a detailed report of annual sun exposure and sunscreen use as well as annual skin exams, which identified and documented skin lesions.
- This is the longest term study on new mole development ever conducted.
- Unfortunately, the results reveal that there was no association between sunscreen use and subsequent development of new pigmented lesions.
- The study conclusion: sunscreen use did not protect from or decrease the likelihood of developing pigmented moles (a marker of melanoma risk) at all.
To understand why the most common sunscreens (which are chemical based) are not preventing new pigmented lesions from arising, you have to understand how chemical sunscreens work:
- Chemical sunscreens (such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone) are absorbed into your skin and attempt to neutralize the UV rays once they penetrate your cells, by chemically reacting to the UV radiation.
- This means that the UV exposure is already reaching into your living tissues, and as a physician I don’t see how this can be cancer preventive.
- Your cells are already exposed to the UV radiation (including your cell’s DNA) by the time it is being neutralized.
- Physically blocking sunscreens, such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, are different. These physically sit on top of the skin and literally block UV radiation from even reaching your skin.
- Physically blocking sunscreens is the type of sun protection you want, and this is the only type of sunscreen I will carry in my pharmacy for you — you can find those here.
The Environmental Working Group agrees — sunscreen should be a last resort to protect against UV exposures outside. Read their full sunscreen guide here.
Because you don’t want to avoid sun exposure (which decreases your life span) and you don’t want to rely solely on sunscreen to reduce your cancer risk (since it doesn’t anyway…) today I’ve compiled a list of 6 awesome ways to stay protected in the sun in ways that will truly protect you:
Top 6 Things You Can Do To Decrease Your Skin Cancer Risk:
1. Avoid Peak Sun Hours:
The most important #1 way to protect from ultraviolet exposure is to avoid the sun during the peak UV hours in mid-day. There was a huge medical study that backs this up… Sunscreen was third in order of most effective ways to protect yourself from sun damage and skin cancers.
The ultimate solution, when possible, is sun avoidance during peak sun hours (10AM — 4PM) â€” this is infinitely better than any sun protection. You want to get some incidental sun exposure on some exposed skin daily, but to decrease the UV intensity you want that exposure to be in the earlier AM or later PM hours!
I love to recommend that folks get out in the early morning light — grounded of course — to start their day with light exposure (which helps boost sleep that night, boosts immune function, decreases pain, even boost libdo!) and to get a Vit D boost from indirect sun exposures, as well as to get a grounding boost (which helps every organ system in their body function better, & even gives them a mood boost to start their day on the right foot!) If all you can do is head outside with a cup of coffee and touch a leaf on a tree, stand on a patch of sidewalk, or sit on their front door step while they drink their morning brew… that’s perfect.
Then again, after dinner, shoot for another 10 minute or longer grounding session, an after dinner walk, or even eat dinner directly outside (grounded of course!) for another boost of indirect sunlight.
Try 10 minutes in the AM and 10 minutes in the PM for a week and see how noticeably your wellness blooms.
2. Wear UV Protective Clothing, Hats and Sunglasses:
The second best way to protect from the sun, if you are going out in the peak hours, is UV protective clothing. Rash guards, hats, sunglasses.
Be certain to protect your eyes by wearing UV protective sunglasses, dear reader! UV exposure is one of the leading causes of lens opacity (cataracts) as you age. You can prevent this by diligently protecting your eyes.
A hat will shade most of your face and your ears, and a rash guard can protect shoulders while you are outside getting grounded on the beach, working in your garden, doing yard work, or spending a little time with your kids or your pet outside in the fresh air.
3. Use Only Physically Blocking, Non-Nano Sized Sunscreens:
As talked about above, a non-nanosized, non-chemical based sunscreen is the only thing I will put on my own face every single day.
Here is my Skin Repair Protocol in my online pharmacy — in it I have listed my favorite stick, lotion and spray sunscreens that I personally use and recommend to my patients.
I also list the liquid tinted moisturizer that I use (instead of foundation) that contains 20% zinc oxide to protect my face and neck every single day of the year (even in winter):
4. Take Curcumin To Protect Against Melanoma:
Did you know that Curcumin actually kills cancer cells in laboratory studies and has been specifically shown to target and kill melanoma cancer cells?
Read this study published in the International Journal of Cancer in October 2016 for a good overview on what we know about curcumin and melanoma so far.
If you want to add the anti-cancer benefits of curcumin to your health regime (which I highly recommend if you have any personal or family history of melanoma or even if you just have a history of intense sun exposure) I recommend taking a pharmacy grade supplement that couples a 500 mg dose of curcumin with bioperine to help increase the bioavailablility and absorption of the curcumin.
The one I listed in my Skin Repair Protocol here is my favorite:
5. Use Vitamin B3 to decrease all other forms of skin cancer:
Clear evidence that a simple vitamin can be cancer preventive: Vitamin B3 dramatically reduces skin cancer rates.
Presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2015 Annual Meeting in May 2014, Vitamin B3 has been shown to be a safe, effective way to reduce your risk of recurrent skin cancer.
Researchers looked at over 380 patients with a prior history of non-melanoma skin cancers, giving half nicotinamide supplements and half a placebo, and followed them for a year. They found the patients in the Vitamin B3 group had a quarter less skin cancers total (a 23% decrease) than control patients:
- Basal cell occurrence decreased by 20%
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma decreased by 30%
- Actinic Keratosis decreased by 13%
Niacinamide (Vit B3, also known as Nicotinamide) enhances DNA repair in skin cells damaged by UV light, as well as boosts the immune system and prevents the suppression of immunity by ultraviolet radiation. (Nicotinamide has other benefits as well, including preliminary studies showing a boost in cognition… helping to restore cognition in Alzheimers!)
So… if you have a history of serious sun exposure?
Or a history of previous skin cancers?
Or you just want less unsightly actinic keretosis popping up in the future?
Vitamin B 3 offers 100% all natural holistic chemo-prevention! Vitamin B is safe, inexpensive, proven. Find my favorite Vitamin B3 and Curcumin supplements together in my Skin Repair Protocol, here.
6. Eat fruits and veggies daily, especially during the summer:
Medical studies have shown that eating foods rich in carotenoids (like ) and lycopene (like tomatoes) have a photo protective effect in human skin, and have even been shown to cut the number of tumors from UV light exposure on mice significantly… actually slashing the tumor count in half!
Foods to eat daily that not only provide this photoprotection to decrease skin cancer risk, but also to protect against premature aging as well, include:
- sweet potatoes
- and sweet red peppers
Enjoy that life giving, mood boosting, beautifully warm radiant sunshine this spring & summer, but do it in a way that protects your skin from too much exposure:
- Try to avoid peak hours of sun exposure, going out in morning and evening hours when possible
- Wear a hat, sunglasses and/or rash guards whenever possible
- Avoid toxic chemical sunscreens and use physical sunscreens instead
- Take curcumin and vit B3 supplements to decrease skin cancer risk
- Eat fruits and veggies high in antioxidants routinely to nourish your skin from the inside out
- & while you are at it, stay well hydrated too, drinking water before, during and after sun exposure (more on this soon!)
In an upcoming blog I’ll be telling you how to naturally protect against other spring and summer health concerns, like what to do if you get a tick bite!
So if you have had this article forwarded to you, be sure to sign up here by entering your email to receive my uplifting weekly newsletter so you don’t miss next week’s article.
And if you know someone who loves the sunshine and could use some uplifting holistic tips that will protect them, forward this email to them too!
Here’s to happy, healthy spring & summer days ahead…