Unless you've been living under a rock for the past decade, you've heard the warnings: "Stay out of the sun, cover up your skin and coat yourself with sunscreen or you will get skin cancer! Don't go outdoors unless absolutely necessary because the sun could kill you!"
Of course, if you've been living under a rock, getting too much exposure to the sun isn't really an issue, but for the rest of us, these warnings have created a mad rush for wide-brimmed hats and Coppertone. However, increased use of sunscreen has not yet led to decreased skin cancer rates as expected. In fact, some argue that sunscreens may actually promote certain forms of skin cancer, while contributing to other health problems, as well.
Many medical professionals, from both the conventional medicine and natural health worlds, tout sunscreen as the "don't leave home without it" skincare essential. Dr. Andrew Weil, in 8 Weeks to Optimum Health, writes, "If you cannot stay out of the sun, I recommend using sun block regularly, even getting in the habit of applying it to exposed areas of the body when you get up, as part of your morning ritual." The basis for most medical professionals' support for sunscreen products is the idea that any exposure at all to the sun's UV rays can lead to skin cancer -- an outdated idea that is now being overturned by considerable evidence supporting the importance of safe, reasonable sunlight exposure.
Fear of skin cancer from excessive UV exposure is not an irrational one, since some 1 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed every year in the United Sates, according to Earl Mindell in Earl Mindell's Supplement Bible. There are also plenty of warnings about how too much sun can cause premature aging or increase the risk of eye problems like cataracts or macular degeneration, which can lead to total blindness.
However, these unwanted effects only appear in individuals who suffer from nutritional deficiencies, especially with antioxidants. A lack of eye-protecting antioxidants such as those found in berries (like vitamin C, anthocyanins, etc.) allows UV rays to do harm in ways that would normally not occur in a healthy individual. Thus, the "harm" from UV rays is primarily caused by malnutrition, not simply by exposure to UV rays.
Why we need sunlight for good health
Our bodies need sun in order to produce vitamin D, which is essential to good bone health. According to Dr. James Howenstine's A Physician's Guide to Natural Health Products That Work
, ultraviolet light from the sun "initiates the conversion of a vitamin D
precursor in the skin to a substance that, after changes in the liver and kidneys, becomes the active form of vitamin D."
People who are deficient in vitamin D -- as many elderly individuals are -- often tend to have higher rates of breast, colon, ovary and prostate cancer, as well as a higher incidence of mood disorders, high blood pressure and impaired immune response, Howenstine writes. Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to bone diseases like osteoporosis, osteomalacia, osteoarthritis and rickets -- or "soft bones" -- in children.
This feature story continues at www.HealthRanger.com (membership required) where you will learn natural sources for vitamin D, the hidden dangers of toxic sunscreen chemicals, and expert opinions on vitamin D and sunscreen. Click here for details.