“There you go. This will keep the sunlight and skin cancer out.”
That’s actually true. Wearing a hazmat suit will completely prevent you from getting sunburned.
But it will also completely prevent you from making any natural vitamin D…
So what do we do? NOT wear hazmat suits and get SKIN CANCER??? Or get naked, get the vitamin D, but get covered in skin cancer??? Is the vitamin D even worth it if you turn into a skin cancer??
OR! What if… the widespread heliophobia that has pervaded our society for several decades now is completely irrational, illogical, and based on flimsy cosmetic industry-promoted pseudo-science? What if the field of dermatology made a gigantic, catastrophic mistake regarding skin cancer education and has been ferociously staving off their reckoning day by propagating outdated information? What if people who enjoy more sun actually suffer less skin cancer? What if people who enjoy less sun suffer more skin cancer???
What if the vast majority of skin cancer cases are minor and non-fatal and therefore… not really as big of deal as we’ve been led to believe? What if sunscreen manufacturers desperately want you to believe the opposite?
What if, by avoiding the sunlight that can potentially cause skin cancer, people are actually increasing their risk of developing much more serious internal cancers?
What if the “War on Skin Cancer” is actually killing us?
Strap yourselves in! Because it’s about to WILD up in this blog. I’m about to share with you the HARD FACTS, HARD HISTORY, and HARD SCIENCE that debunks the ludicrous claims of the Cosmeceutical-Dermatology-Industrial-Complex that the sun is your enemy.
But before I do that, let’s engage in some common sense and thought experiments for a moment….
Most plants need sunlight. Of course, there are plants that don’t like a lot of sunlight, but most plants need at least some sunlight. From big giant oak trees to teeny-tiny, delicate flowers – most plants need them some sun. So if sun exposure is so destructive and dangerous to human health, why are teeny-tiny, delicate flowers unaffected by it? Sure, sure. That’s a PLANT and we’re HUMANS. “We’re not plants, AUSTIN! IDIOT!” And even a sun-loving plant that gets too much hot sun and not enough water may suffer, but that’s a hydration issue.
When I was in kindergarten my class did an experiment. We took three of the exact same potted plant and subjected it to three different sun exposure scenarios. We put one plant outside where it would experience direct sun exposure, we put one of them inside near a window where it would experience indirect sunlight through glass, and then we put the last one inside a dark cupboard where it would experience ZERO light at all. We waited a while, probably a couple weeks, before checking the results. The results? The outdoor plant looked great, the indoor window plant looked pretty meh, and the dungeon plant looked horrible. It was more pale and had very little color. It was also much smaller in size. They all got watered. I remember us kids were all vying for the noble position of “plant waterer.”
So that was PROOF I witnessed at a very young age that, for at least some organisms, sun exposure is vital to health and life. Indisputable. (Looking back I now realize that us poor school children were being kept inside the very same classroom where the two worst looking plants were suffering stunted growth! Stupid adults! Trying to kill us!?!)
Why does it feel so goooooood to lay in the sun at the beach or around a pool? You’d think if it was really that bad for you it would hurt. Of course, if you’re the kind of person who always avoids the sun, stays indoors all day, and wears lots of clothing and sunscreen, it probably will hurt you because you have no sun tolerance. But for those of us who get sun exposure regularly, why does it feel great?
Any why does tanned skin look more sexy than pale skin? Unless you’re goth or are into goth vampire people, don’t we all prefer golden skin? Think of someone you find attractive. Would they look more attractive or less attractive if they suddenly became pale white all over? Do you associate pale, white skin with athletic prowess or tanned skin? I know I might be offending lots of gingers right now, so I do want to say that, ginger ladies, I do find naturally pale women (gingers and some Asians) to look very attractive. But non-gingers who look pale? It’s a bad look. Let’s be honest.
My speculation is that we find tans sexy for reproductive reasons. A mate with a healthy-looking tan is more likely to have higher vitamin D levels and therefore be more fertile, healthy, strong, and capable of producing and raising a healthy baby. At least among white people. Obviously, many people are born with more melanin in their skin regardless of sun exposure, but that’s my theory for why tans look good on white people. If I see a woman with pale skin I think “Ewww, bad vitamin D levels. Can’t make a baby with her.” My girlfriend has a nice tan. She enjoys the midday sun on her lunch breaks.
And what did human beings do before the invention of sunscreen and modern climate-controlled buildings? All those humans living near the equator? No sunscreen, no houses, running around almost naked like they still do in parts of Africa and South/Central America. Was there a constant skin cancer epidemic for thousands of years until sunscreen was invented? I think it’s more likely that the human body evolved to handle sun exposure long before our recorded history even starts.
But you didn’t come here for wild speculations and kindergarten experiments, so let’s get to the…
Hard Facts About Skin Cancer
(My cancer statistics here come from the American Cancer Society’s 76-page 2017 report on American cancer statistics.)
There are basically two main types of skin cancer: melanoma and non-melanoma. 99% of skin cancer cases are non-melanoma. Melanoma skin cancer cases make up only 1% of total skin cancer cases, but cause the vast majority of skin cancer deaths. Melanoma is the deadly one.
Non-melanoma skin cancer on the other hand, not so much. It has an extremely low fatality rate. Only 0.1% of the people who develop non-melanoma skin cancer will die from it. Literally 99.9% of people who develop non-melanoma skin cancer live. Why? Because it’s easy to detect and treat. You can see it on the outside of your body, unlike an internal tumor. You find a little thing on your ear and you have a doctor cut it off. Easy peasy. Non-melanoma skin cancer only kills about 2,000 people a year out of 3.3 million diagnoses (which is incredibly low compared to all other forms of cancer).
Melanoma skin cancer, despite only being 1% of all skin cancer cases, will kill nearly 10,000 people this year.
Here’s an interesting study on melanoma skin cancer rates among U.S. Navy personnel from 1974-1984 (that’s a lot of data, right?). The study found that personnel who worked outdoors had a lower incidence of potentially deadly melanoma skin cancer than personel who worked strictly indoors. The study also found that in the discovered melanoma cases, the melanomas appeared “most frequently” on areas of the body not exposed to the sun and appeared least frequently on the areas of the body that received the most sun exposure (head and neck).
So, the indoor workers got more melanoma skin cancer and the melanomas appeared on parts of the body that get less sun exposure. The study also found that personnel who did a mix of indoor and outdoor work had even better results than the strictly outdoor workers, leading to the conclusion that moderate sun exposure is superior to heavier sun exposure – enough sun to get some vitamin D, but not enough to get burned. The increased melanoma rate of the indoor workers was ultimately attributed to lower vitamin D levels as a result of less sun exposure.
Why is vitamin D so important? See this list of studies I compiled about all the great things vitamin D does for your body and all the bad things it prevents. It’s the most important element to our health after oxygen, water, and food. A long-term severe vitamin D deficiency will lead to the slow, painful breakdown of your body. Literally. YOU. NEED. SUNSHINE. TO. LIVE. You can’t live without vitamin D.
Another study of the U.S. Navy, conducted in 1937, found that although Navy personnel were eight time more likely to develop skin cancer compared to the civilian population, they were 60% less likely to develop any other form of cancer!
Feel free to come to your own conclusions, but my takeaway is, if anything, I should be trying to get skin cancer because all of the vitamin D that comes along with it prevents all the other forms of cancer!
The conventional skin cancer-prevention strategy of “Stay out of the sun! Use sunscreen!” will protect you from the non-fatal non-melanoma skin cancer, but it appears that following this advice will simultaneously increase your risk of the developing the actual deadly melanoma skin cancer, as well as all other forms of cancer – which I’ll be covering below.
Here’s another study from 2004 that also found indoor workers have an increased risk for developing melanoma compared to outdoor workers.
And another study from 2009 saying the same thing.
And a study from 2008 that found melanoma patients who enjoyed more sun exposure had higher survival rates.
And another study from 2005 which concludes that sun exposure increases melanoma survival.
And another study from 2003 concluding that lifetime sun exposure is associated with a decreased risk for developing malignant melanoma.
Skin Cancer and Internal Cancer Death Rates
According to the American Cancer Society Report:
-Non-melanoma skin cancer will kill 2,000 people this year
–Melanoma skin cancer will kill just under 10,000
-Lung cancer will kill 155,000
-Breast cancer will kill 41,000
-Prostate cancer will kill 26,000
-Colon cancer will kill 50,000
-Ovarian cancer will 14,000
Overall, the American Cancer Society predicts that there will be 600,920 cancer deaths in America in 2017… with all forms of skin cancer combined making up only 2.6% of that total and non-melanoma skin cancer (the one the outdoor workers get) being only 0.3% of that total.
In light of these figures, it seems absolutely insane to be frightened about sun exposure and skin cancer when internal cancers cause 97.4% of cancer deaths in America and there is a flood of evidence showing that UVB radiation can prevent internal cancers as well as melanoma skin cancer. I just don’t understand how an intelligent person can examine this data and aggressively promote the idea that there is a skin cancer epidemic and that we must fear sunlight.
The American Cancer Society’s report also mentions that melanoma skin cancer has been on the rise for the past thirty years, which is an interesting bit of information considering sunscreen came on the scene a few decades before that and has become an increasingly bigger part of people’s lives ever since. Correlation or causation?….
And this is just cancer we’re talking about in this article. Vitamin D and UVB has been shown to prevent cancer, but also autoimmune, bone, and “old age” degenerative diseases. The obsessive desire to avoid skin cancer is leaving people increasingly vulnerable to many more, and much more serious, health problems.
Sunscreen and Vitamin D Deficiency
Sunscreen is a bit of a problem because even weak SPF 8 sunscreen blocks 90% of the UVB radiation necessary for vitamin D synthesis and SPF 30 blocks 99% (see here and here). Of course, if you’re going to be out in the sun for ten hours and you’re caucasian you will need some sunscreen. Absolutely. If you wear an SPF 8 all day you’re still getting 10% of ten hours of sun exposure, which is pretty good. Of if you go unprotected for 30-60 minutes and THEN put on heavy a SPF 30+, that’s a good idea too. Get as much vitamin D as you can (full body) and then put on skin protection before any burning happens. (Also make sure your sunscreen equally blocks UVA too.)
The problem with sunscreen is when the average person who barely ever goes outside puts on sunscreen before experiencing the little bit of sun they do manage to get. They’re completely missing that opportunity to make vitamin D. This 2000 study found that people in Denmark who don’t spend much time outside, who covers up their skin when they do go outside, and who aren’t properly supplementing develop severe vitamin D deficiencies.
If you’re experiencing sunburning, put sunscreen on, cover up with clothes, or get out of the sun. If you know you’re going to be outside all day long, put on some weak sunscreen throughout the day or strong sunscreen after you’ve gone unprotected for a bit. But if you’re only going outside for a little bit, let the sun hit as much of your unprotected skin as possible. If the UV index is good, you’ll get some vitamin D and your body will produce a melanin response and you’ll have more natural sunscreen to protect you from future sunburn. Not to brag, but I can go on a 90 minute shirtless bike ride on a Florida summer afternoon and not burn – and I’m so white that my last name is WHITE.
Here’s a study that found vitamin D helps prevent sunburn. So long-term, really, your best protection against sun exposure… is regular sun exposure. Sun exposure = sunburn-preventing vitamin D and increased melanin in your skin (natural sunscreen). Nature knows. The dermatologists apparently DO NOT.
(By the way, here’s a study that found 83% of Australian dermatologists to be vitamin D insufficient. They had lower levels in this study than the elderly hospital dwellers who participated. And another study found that 91% of physicians in India were vitamin D deficient.)
I don’t want to beat up on dermatologists too badly. We need them. They’re important. But this propaganda about always using sunscreen and avoiding the sun is dangerous, deadly, and criminal. There’s money to be made selling skin care products, but sunshine is free and nobody can sell it. Might this be a contributing factor to the demonization of sun exposure and aggressive promotion of sun-blocking skin creams?
What do you think? Let us know in the comments
Until next time,
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