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Monday, April 18, 2011

How dangerous is the sun?


There is an alternative school of thought emerging that sunscreen use is not protecting us from skin cancer as we once thought it could.  Skin cancer rates have increased over the past 50 years, as have rates of lots of other cancers.  Use of sunscreen has also risen over this time.  Dr Briffa provides an excellent account of this here.

Some people say that sunscreen itself is involved in the rise in skin cancer due to the chemicals it contains.  Others believe that blocking out the sun’s rays can leave us depleted in Vitamin D (sunlight is needed for Vitamin D production) which is essential for many processes in the body.  Our skin also produces melanin which protects us from sunburn and damage; avoiding the sun totally means that we don’t get to develop this protective pigment.  Alongside these suggestions, I hypothesise that the same factors which have led to a rise in the other cancers could also be involved in the increase in skin cancer; smoking, nutrient depleted diet, increased alcohol intake, exposure to more toxic chemicals, and constant low-level stress. 

The sun is necessary for all life on earth, and in recent years awareness of the importance of vitamin D has come into the medical spotlight.  Suddenly many people have a vitamin D deficiency and are being prescribed supplements.  And the health news that comes my way cites Vitamin D as being responsible for preventing many diverse diseases.  So the sun is definitely important in keeping us healthy in this respect. 

But say that this way of thinking is all wrong, and we do in fact need sunscreen to keep us safe from dangerous UV light and the potential to develop skin cancer.  Does this then mean that the human race is going to be dependent on man made lotions in order to keep us safe?  Are the likes of Ambre Solaire going to be superpowers who we rely on to keep us alive?  Eventually the human race evolves only to be kept from decline by manufactured products?  It’s an interesting concept, and one that I don’t subscribe to.  It doesn’t seem right to me.

I think it’s important to radiate health from the inside.  Your skin (and the defences it provides) is formed from inside the body with substances that you’ve eaten.  I believe that overall health is an important factor in keeping skin healthy, rather than relying on pasting on chemical protection from an outside source.  Your body is an amazing machine that runs on good food, water, sunlight, fresh air, movement and happiness.  Looking after these areas generally stands you in good stead. 

Of course, sunburn is not healthy, and I am not advocating a cavalier approach to sun exposure.  The sun is very powerful and needs to be respected, but perhaps not shyed away from. 



If you have any concerns about skin cancer and skin health, please visit your GP for advice.




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