Does Using Sunscreen Fly In The Face Of Human Evolution?
Check out my video above for my description of how the body uses the sun’s rays to protect us from skin disease.
I’ve observed, and been part of, recent discussions online about the science of sunscreen use to prevent skin cancer.
It all started with an article about how 30,000 people were studied in Sweden and the ones who spent the most time in the sun turned out to have the highest likelihood of dying of skin cancer. On the surface this makes sense to me, especially if one subscribes to the idea that UV rays from the sun are harmful.
The thing is I don’t believe it’s as simple as avoiding UV rays at all cost. What’s the impact of absorbing sunscreens that we would never put in our mouths into our bodies through our skin? One article I saw posted in rebuttal suggested that there is no proof that there is any negative effect. Does that mean it’s impossible? I don’t know.
But what I do know is that we need to take a step back and look at the evolution of our species for a moment and our behaviour in regard to sun exposure. Before sunscreen companies started suggesting that we could apply their products to our bodies and then start logging more hours in the sun than our ancestors with almost nothing covering us we used to have to put on a shirt and a hat to prevent damaging sun burns. This is how it was for at least hundreds of thousands of generations until a few decades ago. These few decades have seen skin cancer numbers like we’ve never experienced and they are not getting better.
Are the sunscreens themselves causing the cancer? I can’t say for sure.
But I can say that they prevent the body from manufacturing the most important defence mechanism it has against skin cancer: Vitamin D. Blocking these supposedly harmful rays blocks the trigger to make Vitamin D from our cholesterol. That would imply an indirect correlation that would not be picked up in studies on whether the actual ingredients of the products themselves cause the skin cancer. If we are spending more time in the sun than ever before with less clothing on than ever before and we’re also applying a substance to our skin that prevents us from manufacturing the Vitamin D we’ve used for generations to protect us from the sun’s rays, then I’d say it’s kind of a cause and effect no-brainer, scientific studies to prove it or not.
So, as a holistic nutritionist, would I ever use sunscreen on myself or my children? Actually I just did a week or so ago. I was at a baseball game and knew I’d be planted under the sun all sweltering afternoon. So I put some on. But I don’t pretend to think that means I can put it on every day and expose myself to dangerous rays with impunity. That’s taking it a little bit far. Common sense, here, folks.
My advice is to gradually build up a tolerance like we used to. Let the body defend itself from harmful rays by using the mechanism Mother Nature came up with: a sun tan. Put a shirt on if you feel you might get burned. Geez. Save some money while you’re at it.