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By James Templeton
Back when I was in my twenties, I had a basal cell skin cancer removed from the top of my head. The dermatologist told me to wear sunscreen 24/7, stay protected and keep out of the hot Texas sun. I followed his directions exactly, putting on sunscreen every day as soon as I woke up and being careful to avoid the sun as much as possible. Ten years later I found myself with a diagnosis of Stage IV Melanoma cancer. After years of study on natural health, I have come to believe it’s the chemical soup in all that sunscreen and lack of UVB rays getting to my skin that were part of getting melanoma, and not sun exposure. Read on to find out more info on melanoma and safe sun exposure.
Sun up to sun down, I faithfully made sure my sun-exposed areas were carefully covered in sunscreen. I didn’t know chemicals like oxybenzone, octinoxate, and homosalate are dangerous hormone disruptors and break down into toxic byproducts once absorbed by the skin. The CDC has found oxybenzone in 96% of Americans, including children, and it’s causing boys to have lower testosterone. The Environmental Working Group recommends avoiding oxybenzone all together because it’s so toxic, and I agree.
Elizabeth Plourde, PhD, is a California-based scientist and author of Sunscreens – Biohazard: Treat as Hazardous Waste, which extensively documents the serious and potentially life-threatening dangers of sunscreens. In her book, she provides evidence that skin cancer including malignant melanoma increased substantially with pervasive sunscreen use over a 30-year period. She stresses that many chemicals found in sunscreens are known carcinogens and endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC).
Have you ever had a skin exam at the doctor’s office? They look for melanoma behind your ears, in your hair, and other areas that get little to no sun exposure. I find it curious that a cancer assumed to be caused by sun exposure is often found in the least exposed areas of the body. The truth is there’s very little data linking melanoma to sun exposure. Since the 1940s, studies show melanoma has been increasing in indoor workers who have minimal exposure to the sun. A study done in 2008 came to the reasoning that the windows block the UVB rays that our bodies use to convert sunlight to Vitamin D. Researchers believe exposure to high levels of the UVA oxidizing radiation combined with Vitamin D deficiency are the reason for increasing melanoma rates.
Vitamin D deficiency is an epidemic, and people think 15 minutes of face exposure to the sun is enough to recharge those levels which is simply not true. The most effective way to increase Vitamin D levels is to get as close to full-body skin exposure as you can – without sunscreen – during the hours of 10am to 3pm when the sun is strongest. You’ll know you’re done when the skin gets a light pink cast to it. For fair-skinned folks this may only take 10 minutes, but most need to spend a longer time in the sun to get the benefits.
One thing I use to get the maximum benefits from sun exposure is astaxanthin. I can be out in the sun for long periods of time without getting burned. Hawaiian islanders have long used astaxanthin from microalgae to protect their eyes and skin from the oxidizing UVA radiation and UVB rays that cause sunburn. Antioxidants in the diet also help, and a large amount of vegetables and fruits need to be eaten to accomplish this.
Iodine is another protector – as it’s excreted through sweat it mixes with the oil on the skin and increases its natural protective barrier. People with iodine deficiency don’t sweat easily, and dry skin is more prone to injury and sunburn than skin naturally lubricated with sweat and oil.
If you have to use sunscreen, the best out there are the mineral-based, non-nano zinc oxide formulas, like 3rd Rock Sunblock or Keys Solar Rx. These form a sun-blocking barrier on the skin as soon as they are applied. Make sure to read your sunscreen label carefully – a marketing trick is to label a sunscreen mineral-based, but it’ll contain only a small amount of the mineral along with the toxic ingredients.
Melanoma is a whole body, systemic cancer that is expressed through the skin. I learned this the hard way through my Stage IV diagnosis. But as controversial as it is, once I discovered natural healing and did my research, I’ve now stopped using sunscreen and I haven’t had melanoma for 30 years now. I’m an outdoors guy, and spend a lot of time out in nature – in the sun; I believe this has been an important part of my healing.