by Dr. Chris Meletis & Dr. Rebecca Berzow
Here in the Northwest we are sun deprived much of the year. We also tend to shade ourselves and use sunscreens to block out the sun’s harmful rays when we are blessed with sunshine. Many folks do not realize that by taking these steps to prevent skin cancers they may actually be increasing their risk of developing other types of cancers.
Dr. Berzow was shocked to learn that one product she had bought for her new baby contained within it products known to cause cancer and estrogen-like effects! Thankfully there was another option that was reasonably priced that contained no harmful ingredients. You can check your sunscreen’s grade online; this list of healthy sunscreens is maintained by the EWG and is found in the Resource section below.
Why does using sunscreen possibly increase your cancer risk? Unfortunately, many sunscreens contain harmful chemicals. The other part is that when people use sunscreens they tend to get more prolonged sun exposure which increases the likelihood of developing skin cancers that are dependent on sun exposure for their development. The other problem is that sun exposure is actually helpful for us, we need skin to be exposed to sunlight to convert our Vitamin D into its active form. Vitamin D is fat-soluble vitamin in our body, it is involved in calcium absorption and utilization, immunity, insulin secretion and blood pressure regulation. There is also evidence that adequate levels of Vitamin D in the body are protective against mutations which can lead to cancer. While it sounds daunting steps can be done to prevent skin cancer and yet ensure adequate stores of active Vitamin D.
What can I do to reduce my risk of cancer?
· Get tested for Vitamin D levels! A doctor can test you for Vitamin D levels, then if needed you can supplement with Vitamin D3 at your doctors recommendation. We find that we often need to supplement Vitamin D in our clinical practice. We have had cases of elevated Vitamin D levels so it is very important to get your levels checked and listen to your doctor’s recommendations on dosages.
· Limit your exposure to the sun: Keep exposure to 10-15 minute increments maximum if going sunscreen-free and be sure to use a healthy sunscreen if you are going to be exposed longer than that. Summer hats can also be fun, fashionable and protective!
Resources on Vitamin D and cancer:
· Friend or family member with cancer, must see website www.4Nutrition.com; Free website with great information that they can share with their doctor
· Linus Pauling Institute, http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/vitaminD/ great resource housed at Oregon State University; first thing we have all our patients read about on their site is vitamin D. Learning about the science with no hype, when it comes to supplements is important.
· For those of you who need a high quality sunscreen, check the brand here to minimize your exposure to harmful chemicals. http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2012sunscreen/