By Dr. Al Sears, M.D.
Spring has finally sprung … I can tell by all the “snowbirds” here in South Florida. The beaches, restaurants and roadways are packed with northern visitors. Seems like more and more folks come down every year to get a taste of “fun in the sun.”
With spring break and the spring holidays just around the corner, you may have plans to get away to a warm sandy shore. Or maybe just want to do a little gardening... Your kids probably can’t wait to get out to the park or onto the ball field. But if you listen to the media, you might be worried about sun exposure. They’d have you believe the sun is a cancer-causing ball of radiation threatening our planet and every living thing on it.
But you don’t have to worry. The fact is the sun protects you from cancer. It enhances your health and is vital to your well-being.
Can sunblock hurt you?
Let me explain …
One of the most important ways the sun protects you is through your skin, which makes vitamin D from its ultraviolet type B rays. And it’s vitamin D that keeps you from getting not just skin cancer, but more than a dozen others.
Here’s the proof in black and white:
- A study by the journal Anticancer Research says very clearly that the more you make vitamin D from UVB rays, the lower your chances are of dying from 15 kinds of cancer.1
- Another study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that vitamin D can lower the chance you’ll get cancer by 77 percent.2
- The European Journal of Cancer looked at cancer rates all over the world. Their study says plainly that vitamin D production in the skin decreases the likelihood you’ll get any of these cancers: stomach, colorectal, liver and gallbladder, pancreas, lung, breast, prostate, bladder and kidney cancers.3
- A study done for the journal Nature shows that the active form of vitamin D (calcitriol or D3), and its derivative vitamin D2, both cause skin cancer cells to die.4
- And did you know that people who work outside like construction workers, roofers and lifeguards have a much lower risk of skin cancer than those who work inside?5
I could go on …
Meanwhile, if you followed conventional medical advice, you’d be putting sunscreen all over your body.
But sunblock lowers your body’s ability to make vitamin D by up to 95 percent.
Today I’m going to show you how to let the sun work with your body to prevent cancer. Keep reading to find out what’s really in sunscreens, when you should use sun protection and safe ways to help prevent sunburns.
We Were Made to Live Under the Sun
If you’ve been to a doctor, turned on the television, been on the Internet, or read a magazine lately, you’ve probably heard some form of this message:
“The sun causes cancer. If you’re going outside, wear sunscreen no matter what. No excuses.”
Does it seem as though scientists think nature must be wrong? I get the feeling they think millennia of trial and error resulted in a mistake with our survival. And even worse, that we need some kind of intervention – some synthetic chemicals – to make it right again.
The truth is, your body already has everything it needs to properly protect itself from the sun’s UV rays. The real problem isn’t the sun. It’s that you might not spend enough time outdoors to trigger these natural defenses.
Let me explain …
Your native ancestors survived outdoors just fine. They lived and worked in the sun’s rays every day. They didn’t use sunblock and they didn’t burn themselves to a crisp or die off from diseases caused by the sun.
Why? Because our bodies are designed perfectly to live in our natural environment.
All without sunblock.
When you’re out in the sun, your body itself takes action. Besides making vitamin D, which I talked about earlier, your body also starts to produce another natural protectant: a built-in sun block called melanin.
Melanin is what causes your skin to darken or tan. And with just a little bit of sunshine every day – 20 minutes if you have light skin and up to three times longer if your skin is darker – you’re stimulating melanin production.
By slowly developing this basic darkening, you allow yourself even more time in the sun without risk of burning.
Sunscreen – A Toxic Skin Cocktail
Corporations and modern doctors want you to put on sunscreen to block UVB rays. We’ve already seen how this affects vitamin D production. But sunscreen has another effect. It delivers chemicals and known carcinogens into your skin … chemicals that are banned in other countries.
One of the main chemicals used in sunscreens to filter out UVB light is octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC).
OMC can be found in 90 percent of sunscreens on the market even though studies found it can kill mouse cells – even at extremely low doses. And it becomes even more toxic when it’s exposed to sunlight.
Other harmful chemicals include benzophenone and avobenzone.
These attack the cells in your body causing premature aging. They are also estrogen mimics that can create hormonal imbalances, cause allergic reactions and skin irritation, and are known to promote the onset of breast cancer.6
And there’s plenty more. Below is a chart of some of the common chemicals found in sunscreen that you should avoid.
It’s Tough to Get Enough
The problem is that even if you have the best intentions, there are a dozen other obstacles in the modern world besides sunscreen that keep you from getting enough sunshine:
- We wear clothing.
- We don’t migrate with the sun.
- We don’t live near the equator.
- We work inside during the day.
- We drive cars that block the sun.
And during the winter months, it’s not uncommon – even if you live in a warm, sunny climate like I do in South Florida – to get less sunshine just because the days are shorter.
When that happens, you produce less melanin, and become more sensitive to the sun when you are exposed.
You’ll need to be careful until melanin production kicks in again and can help prevent your skin from burning.
Fortunately, there are ways you can help defend your skin until you can get more sunshine without chemical sunscreens.
1. One way to help your skin is to boost the three nutrients your body uses to produce its master antioxidant, SOD (superoxide dismutase). SOD is your best defense against harmful molecules that attack your skin.
The best food for this job is blueberries. You probably know blueberries are good for your brain, and that they have beta carotene and lots of vitamins. But the real power of the blueberry is that it has all three co-factors for SOD – copper, zinc and manganese. Eat a cup of blueberries every day, especially during the winter, and you’ll be doing your skin a big favor.
2. Another excellent skin-defender is any food that has the omega-3 EPA. In one study of using omega-3 to reduce ultraviolet radiation sensitivity, researchers found that EPA supplementation reduces sensitivity to UV rays by 36 percent. And the chemical changes to skin induced by UV radiation exposure were cut in half.7 The study concluded: “Longer-term [EPA] supplementation might reduce skin cancer in humans.”
The best sources for EPA are small, cold-water fish like herring, mackerel, anchovies and sardines. Eggs and grass-fed beef also are good sources. Grass-fed beef has double the omega-3s of grain-fed beef.
In addition, you can get omega-3s in some plant-based sources like Sacha Inchi nuts, butternuts, walnuts and chia seeds. But these omega-3s are in the form of alpha linolenic acid, which then has to be converted to EPA in the body.
3. If you are going to be out in the sun for a long time, and you haven’t had a chance to let your body generate enough melanin to darken you up a bit, you should use a natural sunscreen. Choose one made from natural ingredients like zinc oxide. It’s been used all over the world for over 75 years as a safe sunscreen. And unlike chemical sunscreens that absorb ultraviolet light, zinc oxide sits on top of your skin to reflect and scatter UV rays.
Zinc oxide is one of the best sunblocks to use.
Zinc oxide works even better when you add shea butter. That way, your pores won’t clog and you’ll add extra moisture to keep your skin smooth. Make sure the one you use has no chemical fragrances or dyes or any of the toxic chemicals listed above.
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 PACE – The 12-Minute Fitness Revolution. For more information about Dr. Sears and the PACE program, go here now.
1 Grant, W.B. 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
2 Lappe, J.M., et al, “Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial,” Am. J. Clin. Nutr. June 2007;85(6):1586-91
3 Tuohimaa, P., et al, “Does solar exposure, as indicated by the non-melanoma skin cancers, protect from solid cancers: vitamin D as a possible explanation,” Eur. J. Cancer July 2007;43(11):1701-12
4 Danielsson, C., et al, “Differential apoptotic response of human melanoma cells to 1alpha,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 and its analogues,” Cell Death Differ. 1998; 5:946
5 Elwood, J.M., et al, “Cutaneous Melanoma in Relation to Intermittent and Constant Sun Exposure – The Western Canada Melanoma Study,” Int. J. Cancer 1985;35:427
6 Hanson, K., et al, “Sunscreen enhancement of UV-induced reactive oxygen species in the skin,” Free Radical Biology & Medicine 2006
7 Rhodes, Lesley E., et al, “Effect of eicosapentaenoic acid, an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, on UVR-related cancer risk in humans,” Carcinogenesis March 2003; 24 (5): 919-925