By Al Sears, MD
Today I’m here to talk to you about the dangers of staying out of the sun.
That’s right… staying out.
We hear all the time that it’s important to stay out of the sun. They say it can make you sick and cause skin cancer.
Well, the national campaign to keep us out of the sun has finally caught up with us. The result?
A study from the prestigious Archives of Internal Medicine found that three out of four Americans don’t get enough vitamin D.
It’s no surprise really. I know some women who rarely see the light of day during the week. With everyone’s busy schedules and the horror stories we hear about the sun, it seems like catching rays is the last thing on people’s minds.
Especially for busy moms like you. You’re constantly running to drop the kids off, going to work, picking them up, going to practice, dinner and bedtime… all in one day!
But you should care about vitamin D. Here’s why…
Low vitamin D levels don’t just cause rickets in children and weaken bones in adults. They’re strongly linked to cancer, heart disease, and many other serious health problems.
The study shows that vitamin D levels dropped 20% from 1994 to 2004 on average. The number of people who have a deficiency of vitamin D tripled. Plus, those who are below the healthy level of vitamin D jumped by almost 50.[i]
The sun is nature’s way of creating vitamin D in our bodies. Our obsession with staying out of the sun and the big drop in vitamin D nutrients in our food contributes to this national epidemic.
Plus, the government has kept its recommended levels for vitamin D supplements way too low. They recommend you take:
- 200 IU per day from birth to 50 years old
- 400 IU per day for adults aged 51 to 70
- 600 IU per day for those 71 and older
The study’s authors recommend taking 1,000 IU or more a day of vitamin D supplements. This is in addition to increasing your exposure to the sun.
Vitamin D: Don’t Fear the Sun – It’s Nature’s Cancer Fighter
Your body needs exposure to the sun to produce vitamin D. An Anticancer Research study found that just by getting a little sunlight every day – about 20 minutes for fair-skinned people and two to four times that much for those with dark skin – could reduce the risk of 16 types of cancer.[ii]
A number of studies prove that vitamin D contains cancer-destroying properties.[iii] One group of scientists at the University of New Mexico found that exposure to the sun helped cancer patients to recover from established melanoma. So much so, their rate of survival doubled![iv
But you won’t hear many dermatologists – or the $6 billion sunscreen industry – voicing this evidence. Just like the great “cholesterol con” that tricked so many into fearing cholesterol, their “fear of the sun” campaign is just as ridiculous
The real research suggests that the best way to avoid deadly melanoma is to spend more time in the sun. Dozens of studies show that people who work inside – like many working moms – have a much higher risk of melanoma than those who work outside – like construction workers and lifeguards.[v]
Melanoma commonly occurs in areas that don’t receive any sunlight at all. Like the palms of your hands, the soles of your feet, under your arms, and beneath your fingernails. It can even happen inside your nose.
Enjoy the Sun and Protect Yourself Naturally
First, some common sense: Avoid sunburn. It hurts and damages your skin. Second, stop using chemical-based sunscreens. The chemicals can actually be carcinogenic. You can find sunscreens available on the Internet that are natural and chemical-free.
It’s critical that you boost your body’s natural defenses. Our change in diet has left us defenseless against the sun’s rays. Thanks to commercial farming and processing, the nutrients we need to prevent skin cancer are increasingly absent from our food. That’s why we require supplements to get the nutrients we need.
Here are my favorite supplements to help:
Cod Liver Oil – The lack of healthy omega-3 fatty acids in our diet contributes to the rise of skin cancer. Grains, sugars, and processed foods – even commercial beef – are full of omega-6 fatty acids. They prevent your skin from fighting the sun’s UV rays.
A tablespoon of cod liver oil a day will replenish your omega-3 levels. It will also keep your skin looking young and fresh. And will give you a boost of vitamin D in its most natural form.
Astaxanthin is a carotenoid found in shrimp, lobsters, salmon, trout, and algae. It gives them their red/pinkish color. (Carotenoids are nutrients that protect plants and animals from UV radiation.)
Astaxanthin is hundreds of times more powerful than most carotenoids and multiplies the effects of vitamin C and E, increasing their antioxidant activity.[vi]
This is one of the best supplements to prevent skin cancer. During periods of prolonged exposure, you can’t beat it. It’s available as a capsule. I recommend 2 mg a day with meals.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid – ALA is a powerful antioxidant that works at all levels – including your skin. It protects skin cells and mitochondria (the power plant of every cell) from free radicals. It also pumps up your cancer defense mechanisms.
It also preserves collagen and prevents the damage associated with aging skin making your skin more youthful and vibrant. I recommend 200 mg to 400 mg daily.
Vitamin C – A lack of vitamin C makes your skin vulnerable to damage from the sun’s rays. And we have recently started getting far less vitamin C in our diets.
I recommend 3,000 mg per day if you’re currently in good health. This will give you enough to produce the collagen required for strong blood vessels and heart disease prevention.
Pregnant women should get at least 6,000 mg per day. In times of stress or sickness, you can take up to 20,000 mg. A powdered form may be more convenient for larger doses.
Vitamin D – Finally, take a good vitamin D supplement. I recommend 1,000 to 2,000 IU daily, particularly during the winter or if you live in cold, damp climates with little sunlight.
[Ed. Note: Dr. Al Sears, M.D. is a board-certified clinical nutrition specialist. His practice, Dr. Sears' Health & Wellness Center in Royal Palm Beach, Fla., specializes in alternative medicine. He is the author of seven books in the fields of alternative medicine, anti-aging, and nutritional supplementation, including The Doctor's Heart Cure.
[i] Ginde, A. Archives of Internal Medicine, March 23, 2009; vol 169: 626-632.
[ii] Grant WB et al, “The association of solar ultraviolet B (UVB) with reducing risk of cancer: multifactorial ecologic analysis of geographic variation in age-adjusted cancer mortality rates,” Anticancer Research, 2006; 26:2687-2700.
[iii] Danielsson C, et al. (1998). “Differential apoptotic response of human melanoma cells to 1alpha,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 and its analogues.” Cell Death Differ. 5:946.
[iv] Berwick M, Armstrong BK, Ben-Porat L, Fine J, Kricker A, Eberle C, Barnhill R. “Sun exposure and mortality from melanoma.” J Natl Cancer Inst. 2005 Feb 2;97(3):195-9.
[v] Elwood JM, et al. “Cutaneous Melanoma in Relation to Intermittent and Constant Sun Exposure – The Western Canada Melanoma Study.” Int J Cancer 1985;35:427.