The Truth about Sun Exposure, Sunscreens and Cancer

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Is it possible that all the advice we have been given over the last few decades about slathering on sunscreen and avoiding the sun in order to lessen cancer risks – has actually been poor advice? 

According to many experts, the answer is yes. With summer approaching in many parts of the world, this is something to revisit.Is it possible that all the advice we have been given over the last few decades about slathering on sunscreen and avoiding the sun in order to lessen cancer risks – has actually been poor advice?  According to many experts, the answer is yes. With summer approaching in many parts of the world, this is something to revisit.

A 2004 study in the well-respected medical journal, The Lancet, illustrated that indoor workers were twice as likely to get skin cancer as those who spent more time in the sun.  A quote from the article reads,

“Paradoxically, outdoor workers have a decreased risk of melanoma compared with indoor workers, suggesting that chronic sunlight exposure can have a protective effect.”

A more recent 2014 Swedish study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, followed almost 30,000 women for 20 years. Researchers concluded that women who avoid the sun are at increased risk for skin melanomas and are twice as likely to die from any type of cancer compared to those with high sun exposure. Wow!

Finally, one of the world’s leading authorities on natural cancer cures, Dr. Leonard Coldwell, asserts that it is the chemicals in sunscreen that cause most skin cancers rather than the sun.

With the sun having been vilified as a deadly source of skin cancer, how can this possibly be true?  Well, here is the deal. Whenever there is lack of sunlight, it also means lack of Vitamin D. Vitamin D, which is actually more of a hormone than a vitamin, is necessary for properly regulating many functions in the body including our immune systems. Low vitamin D levels are linked to many health problems, perhaps the most frightening of all, cancer. When we allow ourselves appropriate and safe levels of sun exposure, we actually support adequate levels of vitamin D. Sunscreen, on the other hand, hinders that exposure and could actually be contributing to the rise in skin cancer.

Safe UV exposure alone does not cause skin cancer. Two studies published in 2005, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, provide evidence that “solar radiation may have a beneficial influence in both the incidence and outcome of cancer;” thus validating the sun and vitamin D as cancer prevention and treatment.

Get Healthy Sun Exposure Safely

The first key to safe and effective sunscreen usage is to allow your skin 10-30 minutes of exposure before you apply your sunscreen. That will allow the absorption of UVB rays to facilitate the formation of Vitamin D. Where you fall in that time range depends on how sensitive your skin is; how fair or how dark and also your previous sun exposure. When we safely tan, the tan itself serves as protection against sunburn.  So most people need to start slow and build up to 20-30 minutes.  Those with very fair skin have to be the most careful, especially as some just never tan. Those with darker skin need more sun exposure because, due to more melanin in their skin, UVB absorption is somewhat blocked.  So give yourself some sensible safe sun exposure before slathering on your sunscreen. 

The Concerns about Sunscreens

And before you start slathering, check out the ingredients of your chosen sunscreen.  Many well-known brands of sunscreen ironically contain many cancer-causing chemicals known as carcinogens.  When I see all these parents conscientiously and loving applying and reapplying sunscreen to their children to keep them from harm, it makes me sad and upset. Listening to mainstream medical, pharmaceutical and media advice, they believe they are doing their children good.  Yet, if the product is filled with carcinogens, it is not much different than pouring a cup of carcinogens for them to drink.  Your skin is your biggest organ of absorption. Whatever you wouldn’t put in your mouth (our your kids’) shouldn’t go on your skin. And then our livers, already taxed by the number of other toxins in all of our environments, must be further stressed to break down and neutralized these toxins – some of which can even harm the liver itself.  Am I being nitpicking and extreme with this concern?

Check it out for yourself. 

Here are some of the most common sunscreen ingredients:

  1. OMC – The main chemical used in sunscreens to filter out UVB is octyl methoxycinnamate (aka “OMC”) which has been shown to kill mouse cells even at low doses. Plus, it was also shown to be OMC is present in the vast majority of sunscreen brands. Yet is has been shown to be particularly toxic when exposed to the sun.  Go figure!                                                                                                                                  
  2. Titanium dioxide – another common ingredient in sunscreens, has been classified as “a potential occupational carcinogen” by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
  1. Oxybenzone – oxybenzone becomes carcinogenic when exposed to the sun and has been found to be a hormone disruptor! The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends consumers avoid oxybenzone, and yet it remains in many major brands of sunscreen.
  1. Derivatives of vitamin A such as retinol and retinyl palmitate – AOL News reported that about half the sunscreens tested in a study contained derivatives of vitamin A such as retinol and retinyl palmitate. These ingredients have been found to be photocarcinogenic by the FDA’s own studies, meaning the ingredients become toxic and cancer causing when exposed to sunlight.
  1. Diesopropyl adipate – in 2006, the National Toxicology Program reported that diesopropyl adipate, another ingredient in many sunscreens, increased the incidence of tumors in laboratory animals.

These are just 5 common ingredients but hopefully, you get the idea.  You will pay more for a safe sunscreen but how do you put a price on your health and that of your family?

Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a list of safe and unsafe sunscreens (and many other products) on their website. Check it out. You can also make your own DIY sunscreen with totally non-toxic ingredients.  Just click here to get it.  

Non Toxic Sunscreen 


  • ¼ cup Vitamin E
  • ¼ cup coconut oil 
  • ¼ cup shea butter 
  • ½ cup almond oil 
  • 5-10 drops NON-citrus oil for fragrance 

Consider lavender, frankincense, helichrysum 


  1. Mix all together 
  2. Rub on all areas exposed to sun


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