Sunscreen… Good or Bad?

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Have you noticed the big, bright, shining object in the sky? It is called the SUN. We know it has been absent from our lives for a while. Now that it is has returned, how can we safely reap its health benefits? With all the ads for sunscreen, public service announcements by famous people about avoiding skin cancer, what is REALLY, based on research, the best way to protect your skin?

For years we have been hearing that sunscreen is the key to avoiding skin cancer.  A study from the Swedish research institute, Karolinska, has found quite the opposite. Over a period of 20 years, and with the participation of 30,000 fair-skinned Swedish women, the researchers looked at what happened to people who were regularly exposed to sun, sunbathers, versus people who either used sunscreen or avoided sun exposure. The findings were startling and quite the opposite of what we hear in the media. They found that the avoiders (sunscreen users) risk of dying was increased by 50% over the regular sunbathers. The first question that comes to mind is, “Does this include risk of dying from Melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer?”  The answer to that was YES.  Even death from Melanoma was reduced in people who regularly exposed themselves to sun, without the use of sunscreen.

How can this be? The answer lies in the intricate way your body absorbs and utilizes Vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for many functions in your body, one of which is your immune system. The best way to take advantage of the sun is to be smart about it. Obviously burning is not advantageous, so expose yourself gradually, and cover up with light clothing when you will be in the sun for an extended period of time. Use natural skin-protection, such as coconut oil. There are a few supplements that we have available at the office that help your skin be more responsive to sun exposure as well as safe products when you accidentally burn.

Don’t fear the sun, but take advantage of its benefits wisely!  If you do choose to use a sunscreen, use a non carcinogenic product!

Source:  Journal of Internal Medicine, 4/2012

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