Does Sunscreen Cause Skin Cancer?

More than a million cases of skin cancer are reported in the U.S. annually. The American Cancer Society, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), and the American Academy of Dermatology consider sunscreen to be the magic potion in skin cancer prevention. While the sales of sun protection products has been growing at about 5% a year so has incidences of basal-cell, and squamous-cell carcinoma and deadly melanoma skin cancer. Some experts suggest that these new cases may come from sun damage suffered decades before. But, why do some studies show sunscreen users suffering more cancers?

In 1998, researchers at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York found sunscreen not only ineffective in stopping skin tumors but, to actually increase the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form. In a comprehensive review of ten studies, five showed those who used sunscreen had an increased risk of developing melanoma. Since the 1970's, sunscreen use has become increasingly common, yet the occurrences of melanoma continue to rise more sharply than any other type of skin cancer. Does sunscreen cause cancer or is it the chemicals in the product that promote cancer?

In Australia the role of sunscreen is downplayed. Australians consider sunscreen as a very last resort. They consider it far more important to wear protective clothing and stay in the shade. According to one of the designers of Australia's prevention campaign, " relying on synthetic chemicals to prevent skin cancer is laughable. It's like giving people saccharin and then telling them they can eat whatever they want and stay thin." For the most part, scientists continue to be baffled by the causes of melanoma. Many continue to believe that the sun is the main initiator, yet, fail to explain why melanoma cancers most often appear on areas of the body, such as the buttocks or soles of the feet, that are not exposed to the sun.

Until around 1950, melanoma was rare. By the mid 1960's it began exploding into the current epidemic. Yet, beaches were jammed on summer weekends in the 1930's, long before the invention of sunscreen, so why didn't the epidemic start sooner? Melanoma is believed to have a lag time of 20 years, but even factoring that in, the epidemic should have appeared a decade earlier.

As reported in Daily Dose 7/15/03 (William C. Douglas II, M.D.) : " I've been in practice 17 years," says Dr. David Goldberg, who practices at the Mt Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. " Seventeen years ago I saw people in their 50's. Now I see fair-complected women in their 30's. Since these women are probably dousing themselves with more sunscreens than their moms did, because of the incessant propaganda about "sun-causes-cancer' from the sunscreen companies and the doctors, maybe there is some link between the screens and the increase in skin cancers. In other words...Are the skin screens causing skin cancer?"

Sunscreen Provides A False Sense Of Protection

The ultraviolet energy (uv) provided by sunlight is composed of UVA, UVB, and UVC wavelengths. The UVC rays are absorbed in the atmosphere and are of little concern. Sunscreens, categorically block the UVB rays but do not uniformly block all UVA rays. The SPF (sun protection factor), whether it be 8, 15, or 45, only measures UVB protection. According to Michael and Mary Dan Eades, both M.D.s, "this is one of the real dangers in using sunscreens as they offer a false sense of protection for those who feel they can bask in the sun without worry." As reported in Conscious Choice (June, 2000), the Eades have taken a careful, reasoned and research-referenced approach to sunbathing in their book, The Protein Power Lifeplan, which they call "a blueprint for optimal health."

Dr. Zane Kime, author of the book "Sunlight", firmly believes that most suntan lotions, when used in the sun, can stimulate the formation of cancer cells. He says its the fat in the lotions that causes the problem. He recommends gradually building up your time in the sun and to use no sunscreens if you have moderate to dark skin. If you have fair skin or you must be out in the midday sun for more than thirty minutes, he suggests using a sunscreen, but one that does not contain PABA.

The Eades also question the oil bases used in sunscreens and theorize that these unstable oils form damaging and potentially cancer-causing compounds called lipid peroxides. Much like the "bad oils" in the standard American diet, the oil bases in sunscreens could find their way in the skin cells.

One of the biggest benefits of sunshine is that the UVB rays activate a chemical change in our skin that manufactures vitamin D, the nutrient that ensures strong, healthy bones. Research has shown that sunscreen halts the production of vitamin D in the body. Without vitamin D children's bones fail to mineralize and deficiencies in adults can lead to osteomalachia in which bones demineralize and become weak.

People at the greatest risk for skin cancer are those with the lightest skin, hair, and eyes. Light- skinned people with a large number of moles seem to be at the greatest risk for melanoma and should be especially careful to limit sun exposures.

Comment: We are beginning to see how "the bad" fats affect our health both internally and externally as well. Ultimately, gradual, moderate uv exposures, without burning may prove to be the safest defense in minimizing the risk of skin cancer. But, the American lifestyle is one of speed and convenience. We have come to expect fast cars, fast food, and fast tans. Have we become self-destructive?
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Tanning & Natural Health News is a publication of Tan Plus /Essentials Of Life, Barclay Square, 350 Route 108, Somersworth, NH. This publication is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to be presented as medical advice. Product statements made have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration.

Copyright © 2003-2012 • Ray Allard • All Rights Reserved

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