If you’re using a sunscreen with a high SPF, it may protect you against sunburn. But it won’t protect you from skin cancer. That’s because high SPF sunscreens don’t give much protection against UVA radiation. UVA radiation is a major cause of skin cancers. So all they are giving you is a false sense of security.
Worse than that, some ingredients in sunscreen can even increase your risk of getting skin cancer.
Some sunscreens contain retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A that can be carcinogenic in the presence of UVA rays. So if you’re using a sunscreen with this ingredient, instead of protecting you, it may be giving you skin cancer!
Other products contain oxybenzone. This is a hormone-disrupting substance that penetrates the skin, where it’s free to roam the rest of your body. Like vitamin A, oxybenzone causes photosensitivity, which could lead to skin cancer.
Why hasn’t the FDA done anything about this? The answer is simple: the FDA is decades behind schedule. Back in 1978, this federal agency — whose job it is to protect us — promised new regulations for sunscreens. Today, more than 30 years later, we still haven’t seen those new regulations!
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In those 30-plus years, we’ve seen a lot of data that slams sunscreens. But the FDA is still silent. So, instead of waiting for the FDA, let me tell you what you need to do.
Get regular exposure to sunlight, but don’t stay out so long that you get burned. If you must wear sunscreen make sure it includes zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and not the ingredients I listed above.
Get plenty of vitamin D. This is key. The Vitamin D Council found that vitamin D is protective against skin cancer, and sunlight helps boost your vitamin D levels. In fact, you are more likely to get skin cancer if you have low vitamin D than from UV rays. Get a blood test and raise your levels to at least 50 ng/ml. For most people, this means taking 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 a day (or more). You can find vitamin D3 in health food stores and through Advanced Bionutritionals.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand