Here Comes The Sun –
While too much sun can cause sunburn and skin damage, moderate sunshine is necessary and beneficial to health. We all need adequate amounts of sunlight to stay healthy. Sunshine is the main source of vitamin D, which reduces the risk of certain cancers and other diseases.
Vitamin D from sunlight acts as a pro-hormone, rapidly converting into 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Many experts believe that there is no harm in the vitamin D concentrations associated with sun exposure and that such levels are probably optimal for human health. In a study published earlier this year, in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, researchers found that patients with the highest blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D had the lowest risk for breast cancer. The investigators found that patients with higher serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D had a 50% lower risk for breast cancer than those with low serum levels. In a recent article published in JAMA, Dec. 20,2006, it was noted both epidemiological and experimental evidence suggest that high levels of vitamin D, which is also a potent immunomodulator, may decrease the risk of multiple sclerosis. Based on this research, healthcare providers are recommending 10 to 15 minutes of daily sun exposure to any part of the body, rotating sites as to minimize repeated sun exposure to any one area.
From an evolutionary perspective, homo-sapiens likely developed in tropical and sub-tropical conditions with large exposure to UV-B resulting in the synthesis of vitamin D. These ancestral environmental exposures could continue to have an influence on human physiology and requirements today. In addition, not all sunshine is alike. Sun in the winter, especially in Northern climates provide varying levels of UVB exposure. Dr. Michael Holick found that in Boston, for example, people don’t start getting enough sun to synthesize adequate Vitamin D until mid-March. The recent research on Vitamin D is so impressive many practitioners are now measuring levels much more frequently.
But What About the Risk for Skin Cancer?
Meanwhile, the American Academy of Dermatology has voiced concern about the vitamin D literature prescribing the health benefits of sunlight. “While many health issues are complex and involve multiple factors, we know that ultraviolet light is the primary cause of skin cancer, and avoiding excessive exposure to the sun and other forms of ultraviolet radiation is the solution,” Clay Cockerell, MD, president of the Academy said in a news release. Dr. Garland, author of the recent Vitamin D study emphasized that his group is advocating prudence and moderation, including the use of a broad-brimmed hat. “I think most physicians will see this as a well-controlled and reasonable approach,” he added. The article points out that sun exposure is inadvisable for patients with primary photosensitivity disorders, people taking photosensitizing medications, and anyone with a personal or close family history of skin cancer or actinic keratosis. Some people may choose to get more of their Vitamin D requirements by nutritional supplementation.
We’re all aware that sun exposure can cause skin damage and increase skin cancer risk, as more than 1 million cases are diagnosed each year. So, we all lather on the sunscreen before outdoor activities. However, it has come to light that there are problems with today’s sunscreens. It is important to be protected from both UVA and UVB rays According to a new report by the Environmental Working Group, only 16% of sunscreens have both adequate protection and are without harmful ingredients. In fact, some of the products did not provide as much protection as listed on the SPF label, as products
Some of the ingredients in our previously favorite sunscreens have been shown to be hormone disruptors (have estrogen-like effects), absorb into the skin, have the ability to release free radicals, or cause allergic reactions… Researchers checked 800 different brands of sunscreen against some 400 other studies. Fifty-four percent of the brands tested contained ingredients that broke down in the sun. The study found only 13 percent blocked UVB Rays but not the harmful UVA rays. ” A lot of the sunscreens don’t have really good UVA protection,” said Dr. Hensin Tsao, the director of the melanoma genetics program at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Some products contained questionable chemicals, such as oxybenzone, which has been linked to cancer.
Some of the ingredients to avoid are: Titanium Dioxide, Octyl Methoxycinnamate, octinate, Octyl dimethyl PABA, Padimate O, Benzophenone, Oxybenzone, Phenethyl Alcohol, Parsol-17, 4-Methylbenzylidene Camphor, Phenoxyethanol, Diazolidinylurea, Hydroxybenzoates, Phenylbenzimidazole Sulfonic, Methyl Paraben, Propyl Paraben, sodium laurel sulphate.
The best active ingredients in sunscreens are currently zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. They provide both UVA and UVB protection. Zinc is one of the body’s essential minerals.
If your child will be in the sun for a long period of time, they need to be protected. The least toxic form of protection is wearing a wide-brimmed hat and natural fiber clothing that covers the skin. You can also minimize their exposure to the sun from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (in the northern hemisphere) when the sun is at its strongest.
Parents are now in the habit of generously applying sunscreen to their kids on a daily basis in the summer months. This is not a good idea since sunscreen can be very toxic and certainly not something you want to rub into your child’s body every day if not necessary.
Common sunscreen ingredients are suspected or known carcinogens and/or hormone disrupters, including diethanolamine, triethanolamine (DEA, TEA), padimate-o, octyl dimethyl PABA, benzophenone, oxybenzone, homosalate, octyl-methoxycinnamate (octinoxate), salicylates, and parabens.
The results of numerous studies suggest that many of the popular sunscreens could contribute to cancer due to their mutagenic and free radical generating properties. And perhaps a more disturbing finding is that many commonly used sunscreen chemicals have strong estrogenic actions that may interfere with normal sexual development and cause reproductive problems. Chemicals in sunscreens can also cause skin irritation and rashes. Most people think that sunscreens protect against skin cancer. While sunscreens do protect against sunburn, there is no scientific proof that they protect against melanoma or basal cell carcinoma in humans.
Three sunscreens that received good ratings are all for babies. They included the Blue Lizard Australian Suncream SPF 30/Baby, California Baby Water-Resistant Hypo-Allergenic Sunscreen SPF 30-plus and Aveeno Baby Sunblock Lotion Continuous Protection SPF 55.
Studies have shown that most people do not apply sunscreen correctly or sufficiently to get the maximum number of SPF on the label. American Cancer Society recommends the following advice:
Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside, and every 2 hours thereafter, after being in the water, sweating a lot, or towel drying. Do the same for your children.
The Balancing Act
We live in a complex world, where even choosing and applying sunscreen is requires attention. Once more, we need to assess our own unique situation and balance our needs for adequate vitamin D exposure (or intake) and skin protection from harmful rays.
Check out your favorite products go to: www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/special/sunscreens/summary.php