Enough of the Suntan Scare Tactics!

Here we go AGAIN.

In the heat of summer (pun intended), the U.S. Surgeon General has just issued a report warning Americans to STOP TANNING ALTOGETHER to prevent skin cancer.

Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak (who himself is a dermatologist) says that skin cancer is a “major public health problem” and that too much exposure to indoor (tanning beds) and outdoor ultraviolet light is a major cause.

Now, I’m not a dermatologist.  I’m not even a doctor.  So far be it for me to challenge Dr. Lushniak’s official pronouncement.  But I HAVE been researching, writing, and covering health stories now for more than 25 years, and I DO have my own common sense enough to know that human beings were not designed by Mother Nature (or God, for that matter) to exist on this planet by having to slather chemicals on their bodies before going out into the sun.  It is UNNATURAL for us to have to do this.

And before anyone even mentions the usual argument about “Yes, but what about the hole in the ozone layer?”, let me kindly remind them that the alleged hole in our ozone is over Antarctica and nowhere else; Unless we’re sunbathing on the Antarctic tundra, we’re getting the same ozone coverage as the ancient Egyptians enjoyed tens of thousands of years ago.

But back to the current anti-tanning propaganda.  It appears that the current medical establishment is completely ignoring the documented correlation of the rise in skin cancer rates since the 1980s with our increased use of sunscreen and sunblock.  Oh, they explain THAT away by citing the increased screening for skin cancer today.  But yet, for decades, Americans not only sunbathed, but back in the ’70s we actually used SUNTAN OIL to ENHANCE the sun’s rays for a deeper tan!  And yet, skin cancer rates only started taking off — and are only accelerating some 30 years later — after we started using commercial lotions to BLOCK the sun’s rays.

These doctors also conveniently omit the fact that nearly all commercial sunscreens and sunblocks are loaded with KNOWN CARCINOGENS!  But the FDA does nothing about it because it doesn’t consider trans-dermal absorption as the same as “ingestion”.  Brilliant, right?  The FDA recognizes the “danger” of nicotine patches, however, enough to regulate THEM.  But somehow, the FDA’s brain trust doesn’t believe that the body can ingest any of the poisons contained in sunblock and sunscreen creams and lotions.

A paper recently published by Margaret B. Planta, MD in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine makes some very interesting points:

For years, primary care providers have advised patients to use sunscreen as a means to reduce their risk of skin cancer, especially cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM). However, between 1973 and 2003, the incidence of CMM increased by 81% and continues to increase at a rate of 3% per year. According to a 2006 US Environmental Protection Agency publication, “there is no evidence that sunscreens protect you from malignant melanoma.” A number of studies suggest that the use of sunscreen either does not significantly decrease the risk or may actually increase the risk of CMM.

 

(Here’s the link to the entire study: http://www.jabfm.org/content/24/6/735.full)

Dr. Planta points out two very important concerns:

— Using sunscreen gives us a false sense of security, boosting the misguided notion that we can spend MORE time in the sun, and

— The poisons inside today’s sunscreens could be more likely what are really causing all this skin cancer.

And those lotions seem to be getting only more dangerous.  Many sunscreens today now pack new unseen hazards:  nanoparticles.

Jill Richardson writes:

Specifically, I’m talking about nano-titanium dioxide and nano-zinc oxide. These are particles that are measured in nanometers — one billionth of a meter. That’s a measurement many times smaller than the width of a human hair. Sunblock manufacturers like them because they help the sunscreen go on without that undesirable “I just smeared cream cheese all over my face” look.

 

Manufacturers often don’t disclose the presence of nanoparticles in their products. The ingredient list might just say “titanium dioxide” or “zinc oxide,” omitting the “nano.” But you’ll find these tiny particles in brands like Coppertone, Banana Boat, Neutrogena, Aveeno, and even Burt’s Bees “Chemical-Free” Sunscreen.

 

Sometimes, these products even sport “non-nano” labels, which take advantage of wiggle-room in definitions to mislead consumers.

Nanotechnology is so new that it’s not yet well-regulated or even well-understood. Scientists are developing commercial uses for it faster than they’re assessing its safety. However, some of the early research is troubling.

 

To put it simply, size matters. A chemical that might be safe in its normal-sized form might not be when it goes nano.

As the group As You Sow writes in its issue brief on nanotechnology in food, “Because of their small size, nanoparticles are able to go places in the body that larger particles cannot.”

 

One study suggested that particles might penetrate skin cells, causing DNA damage after exposure to sunlight. The fear is that this could lead to cancer — exactly what sunblock is intended to prevent.

So what should you do to avoid nanoparticles?  If you must use sunscreen, look for those that contain ZINC OXIDE particles rather than titanium dioxide particles; zinc particles are larger and less likely to penetrate the skin.  They also provide better sun protection.  Also, if a product contains titanium dioxide and it goes on your skin WITHOUT a whitish smear, it contains nanoparticles.  Third, avoid spray-on sunscreens; you’ll inhale nanoparticles from the spray much faster than your skin would otherwise absorb them.

So do we really need chemical sunscreens? Most likely — no.

Remember that sun exposure is GOOD for you.  We get 95% of our Vitamin D — the body’s most potent cancer-fighter — from the sun.  (And don’t think you can substitute sun exposure with Vitamin D supplements taken orally; Vitamin D is chemically unstable and immediately neutralized by stomach acid.  It’s not meant to be EATEN.  This is why Vitamin D is one of the very few nutrients NOT found in breast milk; Mother Nature intended even her babies to get this vital weapon against cancer from the SUN.)

After decades of avoiding the sun, researchers are finding that we have been doing more harm to our bodies than good.  A chronic lack of sun exposure has been linked to fertility problems, several forms of cancer, and varying degrees of depression.

Vitamin D is absolutely essential to better moods, better sleep, and overall health.  It’s essential for absorbing calcium, keeping our bones healthy, and for protecting against serious chronic diseases later in life such as osteoporosis, Type II diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and many common cancers.

In fact, at least one doctor (Professor Michael Holick of Boston University School of Medicine) is recommending that EVERYONE get at least 5 to 15 minutes of sun daily — unprotected — right on our bare skin, with no sunscreen or sunblock of any kind.

So what’s the takeaway from all this?

Use common sense.

Skip the chemicals altogether by simply wearing protective clothing and scheduling your time out of doors during the summer months so that you’re not out and about in the blazing sun with bare skin for extended periods of time when the sun is the strongest (11am-3pm).

When you are out in the heat of the day, stay in the shade.

It really is that simple.

(Borrowed heavily from Nikki Caputa, a British health and fitness coach writing in “The News”.)