We’ve been advised to slather on sunscreen, and warned NOT to go out between the hours of 10am and 2pm when the sun’s deadly rays are strongest.
This fear of the sun was born from our rising rates of skin cancer.
Here are some frightening facts about this deadly disease:
- Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.
- More than 3.5 million skin cancers are diagnosed annually.
- Over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.
- One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.
As you can gather from these statistics there is good reason to fear skin cancer.
But, here is something to think about; the rise in skin cancer is NOT necessarily due to exposure to the sun.
For thousands of years humans have worked outside in the fields and fished open waters without sunscreen, and without incidence of skin cancer. What changed in the last century that has made skin cancer so prevalent in our modern society?
One of my clients, a dermatologist, would gasp every time she saw me. My skin is sun-kissed from spending time outdoors in nature without sunscreen.
“Oh Andrea, you have to protect yourself with sunscreen, otherwise you’ll get skin cancer.” I reassured her that I wasn’t worried about getting skin cancer… at least not from the sun.
When I was 18 years old I traveled to Mexico. And, like many 18 year olds I wasn’t very smart. I drank a pitcher of margaritas and fell asleep by the pool. Two hours of baking in the hot sun might have worked well for a tamale but, certainly not for a human being.
I awoke from my drunken slumber to discover I had severe burns along my bikini line. I was literally fried! I went to the doctor and he diagnosed me with second and third degree burns. He prescribed zinc oxide ointment and told me there was nothing that could be done beside letting the skin heal.
Soon after my burn, I developed a thick purplish brown scab below my bra line and between my breasts. That scab was so darn big it took over two weeks to peel off. And, when it finally did, I noticed something odd. In between my breasts was a half-inch red raised raspberry. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but soon noticed that it crusted over with a small scab of it’s own. That small scab would bleed occasionally and then peel off. But, it always returned. It was a “never-healing” scab.
I also noticed that it itched more often than not, and whenever I would go to the beach and expose that little scab to the sun it would itch like crazy! It was the kind of itch that no matter what I did (scratch it, put ice-cubes on it, rub oil on it…), I could not find relief.
With each passing year my never-healing scab changed color, shape and size. It seemed to be growing larger, and wavered between reddish brown, and purplish brown, and the edges were uneven. It was suspicious, for sure.
But, an interesting thing happened when I changed my diet.
After my diagnosis with thyroid disease at 28 years old, I stopped ingesting toxic food: chemical sweeteners, diet soda, sugar, highly refined foods, preservatives, drugs and excessive amounts of alcohol. Within a year I noticed that my never-healing scab began changing once again. It still crusted over, but much less frequently.
By the third or fourth year of eating “clean” the color had changed as well. It was no longer red. It was now tannish brown. And, finally after 10 years, it stopped itching! Whew, that was a relief!
Today, more than twenty years after that burn, it looks like a raised, light brownish colored mole. It doesn’t scab over and it doesn’t itch like crazy. Although, here’s an interesting little thing I noticed…. if I eat a lot of sugar it does get a little bit itchy.
The sun is an essential source of energy that brings life to all things on the planet. Without it we would surely die. The sun, due to its strong nature, has the ability to draw things up to the surface: the surface of the earth, and the surface of our skin as well.
Intentionally blocking out the sun and using sunscreen may do much more damage than we could imagine. A lack of sunshine has been linked to an increase in ALL cancers across the board: breast, colorectal, lung, skin, pancreatic, ovarian, prostate and others.
Don’t get me wrong, slicking your body with baby oil and frying under the hot sun is NOT a good idea, but exposing yourself to daily sunlight enhances health and the body’s ability to protect itself. The skin produces melanin (a natural form of protection) and vitamin D when exposed, in healthy amounts, to the sun.
Vitamin D, from the sun, increases absorption of calcium and phosphorus, strengthens the bones, reduces symptoms of arthritis, asthma, tuberculosis and MS, and enhances immunity.
The Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that patients suffering from melanoma are more likely to survive if they had a history of sun worshipping. And, according to the National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, “continued high sun exposure is linked with increased survival rates in patients with early-stage melanoma.” There are many more scientific studies that reveal the sun actually protects us from cancer.
But, I don’t need a scientific study to tell me what I intuitively know. We need the sun’s energy to help us thrive and we simply can’t live healthfully without it.
So, before you slather any more sunscreen on your children and the people you love, I would suggest you take your favorite plant and coat it with sunscreen on a daily basis. Tell me what happens.
I want to apologize in advance for killing your plant.
 Organic Style, July/August, 2005 pp. 67-68