The Sunscreen Dilemma

I hope you had a great start to the summer.  It is lovely to see all the flowers around the City, gardeners are busy growing their vegetables, and graduation celebrations abound.

As it is getting warmer outside, the midday sun can be bright and hot. I tend to wear my very unfashionable sunhat and long sleeves during the hot parts of the day, I do avoid exposure to the bright midday sun, yet I am aware that the early morning and late-afternoon sun provides health benefits – way beyond vitamin D production in the skin. Sometimes I add organic sunscreen if I am involved in an outdoor activity during a hot part of the day, but I prefer to ‘hide’ under my big hat that I ordered online.

Several factors suggest that regular sun exposure may not be as harmful as intermittent and high-intensity sunlight. Paradoxically, outdoor workers report lower rates of melanoma than indoor workers). Researchers speculate that higher vitamin D levels for people with regular sun exposure may play a role in reduced melanoma risk

Some suggest that sunscreen users are at increased risk of melanoma and lesions are also found in areas that do not have excessive sun exposure.

A number of studies conducted in the 1990s reported higher incidences of melanoma among frequent sunscreen users. But other studies indicate that sunscreens protect against melanoma

Every major public health authority – the FDA, the National Cancer Institute and the International Agency for Research on Cancer – has concluded that the available data do not support the assertion that sunscreens alone reduce the rate of skin cancer.

Though the science is not definitive, the consensus among researchers is that the most important step people can take to reduce their melanoma risk is to avoid sunburn but not all sun exposure.

Skin Cancer: Sobering Facts

 This year, an estimated 91,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma, and 9,000 Americans will die from it (NCI 2018).

  • White Americans have much higher melanoma rates than people of other races. Men have higher melanoma rates than women.
  • Sun exposure appears to play a role in melanoma, but it is a complex disease for which many questions have not been answered.
  • One puzzling fact: Melanomas do not usually appear on parts of the body that get daily sun exposure.”
  • And, with use of tanning beds before age 30 the risk of developing melanoma jumps by 75 percent.)

I used to be slathered in Coppertone™ when I was living it up on the beach in South Africa. I did not know about the harmful chemicals that are implicated in DNA damage, and in viral activation that potentially is indicated in skin cancers too. The sun’s ultraviolet rays also generate free radicals that damage DNA and skin cells, accelerate skin aging and may cause skin cancer. Now I personally know the world of multiple MOHS surgeries, melanoma (in situ) and basal cell carcinoma.

Chemical Chaos In Sunscreen 

The use of sunscreen is controversial as the toxic chemicals in commercial sunscreen have the potential to contribute to skin cancer. Initially it was recommended to lather up with sunscreen to protect against sun damage and skin cancers. Now the awareness has shifted. Certain studies show that with the use of sunscreens, there has been an increase in skin cancers.  SPF measures protection from sunburn, but not other types of skin damage. Researchers have not found strong evidence that sunscreen use prevents basal cell carcinoma

Many inactive, but toxic, ingredients in sunscreens typically make up 50 to 70 percent of a sunscreen product. These go into our body: Sunscreen ingredients soak through skin and can be detected in people’s blood, urine and even mothers’ breast milk. Several commonly used ingredients appear to block or mimic hormones, and others cause allergic reactions on sensitive skin. …Mineral sunscreens use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. A handful of products combine zinc oxide with chemical filters.

Skin Allergies And Hormonal Disruption?

 In the beauty and personal care industry, there is no FDA regulation regarding toxic ingredients or known cancer-causing chemicals and xeno-estrogens (chemical estrogens.). Several chemical filters appear to be endocrine disruptors that interfere with our own hormonal balance. (These are also prevalent in personal care products and cosmetics, one reason I suggest to “go organic”. Only 20% of chemical ingredients are allowed in organic products – and that is still too much for our body that is daily navigating a polluted world.)

Because estrogen can make hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer develop and grow, many women choose to limit their exposure to these chemicals that can act like estrogen. http://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/sunscreen

Oxybenzone is one chemical in commercial sunscreens that can cause allergic skin reactions (Rodriguez 2006). Besides being a potential allergen creating redness and inflamed skin reactions, it also has an adverse hormonal effect. In studies it has been shown to have low estrogenic properties. Estrogen dominance is large concern as pesticides in foods, cosmetics, hormones in commercial meat, poultry, fish and dairy all increase estrogen levels in men and women – and estrogen is connected with uncontrolled cell proliferation (especially in regards to reproductive cancer). In laboratory studies it is a weak estrogen and has potent anti-androgenic effects.

So What To Do? 

  • For personal care products, nail polish and sunscreens, “go organic’ as a first line of defense.
  • Avoid products with vitamin A or retinol.
  • Check into the Environmental Group to look up recommendations that have been screened for toxic ingredients.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat (SPF hats available at sites online), long sleeves and light pants when in hot sun.
  • Choose sunscreens that contain zinc as a sun deflector (it can affect your zinc/ copper levels.)
  • Wear sun-protective clothing when engaging in prolonged sports activities in bright sun.
  • An umbrella can be helpful at your picnic or on the beach.
  • Seek out shady spots at outdoor restaurants and parties.

Stay well, be safe and stay informed on how you can best reduce your risk of skin cancer. With all that in mind, I wish you a “Happy Summer.”

Rika Keck

NY Integrated Health

References:

(Autier 1998, Beitner 1990, Westerdahl 2000, Wolf 1998)

(Autier 1995, Green 2010, Westerdahl 2000, Wolf 1994).

(Gorham 2007).

(Planta 2011).

https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/skin-cancer-on-the-rise/#.WxWOAK2ZPow

(Krause 2012, Ghazipura 2017).

(Green 1999, Pandeya 2005, van der Pols 2006, Hunter 1990, Rosenstein 1999, Rubin 2005).

(Radespiel-Troger 2009

(Godar 2011, Newton-Bishop 2011, Field 2011).

 

 

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