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The Campaign to Cover Up Americans from Sun Exposure; what are the risks versus the benefits

Posted July 6, 2010

The campaign to address Americans’ sun exposure has become the standard of care in American medicine. One of this country’s leading medical educators and researchers, Michael Holick, MD, even lost his tenure ship in dermatology at Boston University when he dared to question this dogma to avoid and cover up from exposure to the sun. With the news that Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has called on the FDA to reveal the findings between a possible link between a chemical found in most sunscreens, retinyl palmitate, and skin cancer, perhaps it’s time to discuss the risks versus the benefits of reasonable, modest sun exposure. Click here to read further.

Dr. Robert Heaney of Creighton University in Omaha, ND, agrees that we may have taken avoiding all sun exposure too far stating, “Holick provides a much-needed antidote to the scare tactics of the skin mafia.” Other medical experts agree including Dr. John Adams of UCLA stating that Dr. Holick’s book The UV Advantage “provides the clinical community with the first balanced, unbiased view of the benefits and dangers of sunlight exposure in the last 50 years.” Click here to read further.

While the American Academy of Dermatology has adopted a policy to advise all Americans to practice a “comprehensive sun protection program, including avoiding outdoor activities between 10 am and 4 pm when the sun’s rays are strongest, seeking shade wherever possible, wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 and reapplying it every 2 hours, and wearing sun-protective clothing,” there is not uniform agreement among medical experts. Medicine has now recognized the vast extent of vitamin D deficiency among Americans who studiously avoid sun exposure and attempt to get vitamin D through dietary sources (fortified milk and orange juice, mushrooms, cod liver oil).

Vitamin D deficiency is linked to a growing list of cancer including melanoma. While no one including Dr. Holick, Dr. Heaney, or other medical experts who study vitamin D advocate unlimited sun exposure, or overexposure, it is increasingly clear that our bodies were designed to produce vitamin D when exposed to the sun for many medical reasons. One of the most prominent is cancer prevention; others include healthy bones, heart disease and cancer prevention, diabetes prevention, healthy minds, balance, immune system function, and potentially reversing autoimmune conditions including multiple sclerosis. Avoiding all sun exposure or using sunscreens whenever going outside is now linked with the realization that as many as 80% of Americans are vitamin D deficient. We clearly link cancer with Vitamin D deficiency. Researchers such as Dr. Colleen Hayes, UWI-Madison, educate us that vitamin D deficiency is unknown at the equator. Autoimmune conditions are also unknown at the equator. There, we would get the equivalent of 5000 IU of vitamin D daily. While we have yet to learn from the FDA what risk retinyl palmitate in sunscreens creates for us, we are the first generations to cover ourselves with chemicals to avoid sun exposure. We simply don’t know the long term consequences of this action. For thousands of years we have survived and excelled with reasonable sun exposure. It may be time to rethink what “the skin mafias” have culturally conditioned each of us to do, that is, avoid and cover up from the sun. Educate yourself and make the decision about regular modest sun exposure that is right for you.

Deborah Ray, MT (ASCP)