Dr. Joseph Mercola with Rachael Droege
It may seem like second nature to you to apply sunscreen before
going out in the sun, as the media has been bombarding Americans
with reports of the dangers of the sun for some time now, but using
sunscreen is not a good way to limit your sun exposure.
Having concerns about skin cancer is valid, however, as its incidence
in the United States has tripled in recent years to 54,000 cases
annually, but sunscreen is one of the LAST things you want to put
on your body, and sunblock
does not stop skin cancer. Sunscreen is a toxic chemical that
can cause problems in your system and increase your risk of disease.
The FDA regulates sunscreen as an over-the-counter drug because
it contains "active" ingredients. Following is a list
of active ingredients in sunscreen that the FDA classified as GRASE
(generally regarded as safe and effective):
|Para Amino benzoic acid (PABA)
Whether some of these ingredients are toxic is controversial and
there are studies on either
side of the issue. But recently, a study in the April
2004 Journal of Chromatography found that there is significant
penetration of all sunscreen agents they studied into the skin,
and oxybenzone and metabolites across the skin.
So at best when you use sunscreen your body is absorbing synthetic
chemicals, and with experts' recommendations to apply generous
amounts of the product every few hours, you will likely be absorbing
a fair amount. It is hard to believe that all of these chemicals
will not have any effect on your system. Titanium dioxide and zinc
oxide, which act as physical barriers that reflect UV rays, may
be less problematic in terms of absorption.
Even though up until now studies on the potential toxicity of sunscreens
are sparse and not definitive, I believe it is wise to reduce your
exposure to synthetic chemicals as much as possible and I don't
recommend using sunscreens at all.
Sunscreen and Vitamin D
There is another major problem with sunscreen aside from the potential
chemical toxicity and that is it blocks your skin's ability
to make vitamin D by more than 95 percent. If you've been reading
the site then you are familiar with the importance of having optimal
vitamin D levels
and know that regular sun exposure is the best way to achieve this.
Rather than burying your skin in sunscreen, it is clearly important
to get regular sun exposure in order to have optimum health.
Sun Safety Without Sunscreen
This does not mean that we should all go out and get as much sun
as we want--you must exercise caution and avoiding a burn is key.
At the beginning of the season, go out gradually and limit your
exposure to perhaps as little as 10 minutes a day. Progressively
increase your time in the sun so that in a few weeks you will be
able to have normal sun exposure with little risk of skin cancer.
You can further avoid the damage from the sun by staying out of
the sun during the harmful times from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can
stay in the shade during this time or wear lightweight long sleeve
shirts, long pants and a wide-brim hat.
If you are looking to give yourself further protection against
skin cancer, along with not getting sunburned diet is undoubtedly
In 2001, the National Academy of Sciences published a comprehensive
review showing that the omega 6:3 ratio was the key to preventing
skin cancer development. I believe that it is the worsening omega-3:6
ratios that are at least partly responsible for the rise in skin
Omega-3 and omega-6 fats are both essential for human health, however
the typical American consumes far too many omega-6 fats in their
diet while consuming very low levels of omega-3. While the ideal
ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is 1:1, our ratio of omega-6 to
omega-3 averages from 20:1 to 50:1!
The primary sources of omega-6 are corn, soy, safflower and sunflower
oil; these oils are overabundant in the typical diet, which explains
our excess omega-6 levels. Avoid or limit these oils.
Meanwhile, omega-3 fats, found in fish
oil and cod liver oil, need to be increased.
A major part of the problem is that at the beginning of 1900 we
had very little processed vegetable
oils, which are virtually 100 percent omega-6 fat, in our diet.
In the last 100 years the U.S. population has gone from consuming
virtually no vegetable fats to consuming more than 70 pounds per
year. It is likely this unnaturally high consumption of omega-6
fats that is totally distorting the important omega 6:3 ratio.
So as I mentioned above, it is vital to reduce the omega-6 vegetable
oils in your diet as much as possible while increasing the amount
of beneficial omega-3 fats. This is an incredibly important way
to prevent skin cancer and it is spelled out quite clearly in a
Cancer Research study that says:
"Epidemiological, experimental, and mechanistic data implicate
omega-6 fat as stimulators and long-chain omega-3 fats as inhibitors
of development and progression of a range of human cancers, including
Additionally, consuming many whole vegetables will increase antioxidant
levels in the body, which will provide protection against any sun-induced
radiation damage. Eating the right vegetables for your metabolic
type will give you the best results, of course.
So if you want to benefit from the sun this summer, and I sincerely
hope you do, throw away your sunscreen and use practical methods
like clothing and shade to protect your skin from the sun when necessary.
Always avoid getting burned, but be sure to get some sun on your
skin. Complete avoidance of the sun is a surefire way to cause some
problems for yourself down the road.