Few subjects on health are as riddled with myths and misconceptions as the question of the sun and its presumed role in contributing to skin cancer. This intriguing subject deserves closer scrutiny.
The sun has been demonised in recent decades as being the source of escalating skin cancers in modern times. This has resulted in many people today running for cover from the sun in their efforts to avoid this most common of cancers.
However, if we stop to consider the facts for a moment, we are left with some surprising twists in the beliefs and perceptions surrounding the sun and its role in skin cancer (and other cancers).
Contrary to popular opinion, the most dangerous of skin cancers, melanoma, is not caused by normal exposure to the sun! Dr Bernard Ackerman (winner of the American Academy of Dermatology’s prestigious Master Award) claims there is no proof that normal sun exposure causes melanoma in spite of claims by medical mainstream and the multimillion dollar sunscreen industry. He also says that there is no evidence to support the belief that sunscreen prevents melanoma.
WE NEED THE SUN
It is worth reminding ourselves that without the sun – the only true source of energy for our planet throughout all of history – life as we know it would simply not exist. We also need to remain cognisant of the fact that until recent decades, skin cancer was a rare disease. How then do we explain that the sun, giver of life for millennia, should suddenly become so harmful causing unprecedented loss of life through various forms of skin cancer?
Let me quickly point out that the answer to this most pertinent of questions is NOT the common misconception of a thinning ozone layer permitting excess UV light penetration. This point is demonstrated best by the vast difference in UV radiation experienced by individuals living in different geographical locations. Those living at high altitudes are exposed to considerably more UV radiation than their counterparts at low altitudes. The same can be said for those living at the equator who are naturally exposed to considerably more UV light than those living in polar regions. And yet in both instances it is those populations exposed to the most UV radiation (i.e. at the equator and high altitudes) that paradoxically are virtually free of all cancers, not just skin cancers!
THE HEALING POWER OF THE SUN
Could it be that the sun is actually protecting these people from cancer rather than causing it? In a word… yes!
It is for this very same reason that the use of heliotherapy (controlled sunlight therapy) was successfully embraced in Europe in the late 19th to mid-20th century for healing diseases that ranged from tuberculosis, to small pox, lupus and rickets. This would however be replaced in the 1930s following the discovery of penicillin and the advent of the pharmaceutical age.
Benefits of the sun
However, the benefits of sunshine remain unchanged in modern times when exposure to sunlight is regular and controlled while avoiding burning. Some of the benefits include: stimulation of our immune system; production of mood-enhancing hormones; reduction of raised blood pressure, cholesterol and high blood glucose; and it is responsible for vitamin D3 synthesis.
The vitamin D link
Unfortunately, 85% of people today are vitamin D-deficient due to the pervasive misinformation about sunlight and its alleged harmful effects. In fact, a study1 conducted by Dr William Grant, PhD (recognised vitamin D expert), concluded that approximately 30% of cancer deaths (approximately two million worldwide) could be prevented with higher vitamin D levels!
In fact, to elaborate on breast cancer, the most common of cancers in women, over 60 studies reviewed and published in the American Journal of Public Health have demonstrated that when vitamin D deficiencies are corrected the risk of breast cancer is reduced by 50%, while for those women who already have breast cancer, their survival rates are doubled when vitamin D deficiencies are addressed.
USE SUNSCREENS WISELY
Several studies have shown that most sunscreens shield us from the beneficial UVB rays which promote vitamin D synthesis so crucial in providing us with the many health benefits already mentioned, while over 60% of sunscreens are not protecting us from the harmful UVA rays which are considered the most dangerous in promoting skin damage, ageing and skin cancers.
And now to rub the proverbial salt into the wound, most common sunscreens that people are applying copiously to their skin and to their children’s skin every day through the summer months contain toxic chemicals that can actually cause skin cancer, while also entering the blood stream leading to endocrine disruption!
By regularly cleansing the body of toxins and impurities, avoiding the use of harmful chemicals on the skin (home and body care products as well as toxic sun care products), minimising your exposure to processed food while nourishing your body (and skin) from the inside with a diet rich in organic fruits and vegetables, wild-caught fish, grass-fed meat, nuts and seeds and healthy fats, we go a long way to protect ourselves from the harm that excess UV light might otherwise trigger.
- Grant WB. A critical review of vitamin D and cancer. A report of the IARC Working Group. Dermato Endocrinology. 2009;1(1):25-33. Further reading on how to enjoy the sun safely: www.drjaney.com