Fact: The chances of developing skin cancer jump way up after we’ve had a few bad sunburns. So first thing’s first: what is a sunburn?
The skin becomes red and perhaps blistery when the body has absorbed more vitamin D than it can process, and thus the excess is excreted through the body’s largest organ: the skin. Other fat soluble vitamins are also excreted in this manner such as the skin turning orange (carotenosis or cartotenaemia) when too many vitamin A rich foods are consumed.
Though damage is done to the skin when we get a “sunburn”, it is still important to do all we can to avoid overdosing on vitamin D. Covering your skin from the suns rays when they are the strongest, which is from 10am-4:00pm is a wise approach to regulating how much vitamin D your body is absorbing.
But I’ve heard vitamin D is good for me?
While we do need a certain amount of vitamin D, the body can only use so much at a time. Most Canadians are deficient in vitamin D though most of the year due to the cold climate we live in. We spend less time outside, and when we do most of our skin is usually covered. Supplementing with vitamin D in the winter is advisable for just about everybody in our country as a deficiency can actually lead to skin cancer! Taking breaks in the shade on a sunny day is a great way to let your body play catch up. Supplementing with calcium helps process vitamin D as well. In fact, vitamin D & calcium together can reduce the rates of skin cancer by half! Avoiding acidic foods (think soda, dairy, grains) that would cause the body to leach more calcium & minerals from the bones (to process the excess vitamin D) will keep more calcium in your body. Try hummus & veggie sticks or fresh fruit for your beachy snacks instead! Kick start your day with anantioxidant rich superfood smoothie for a natural way of counteracting damaging free radicals. Eating junk food only makes a sunburn worse: just one more reason to eat a fresh, nutrient dense diet.
Fact: Once you get skin cancer, your incidence of developing another type of cancer is much higher. Prevent, prevent, prevent. Support your body with a healthy diet full of lots of fruit & veggies, protein & healthy fats.
What about sunscreen? Many sunscreens contain chemicals which are:
- endocrine disruptors: interfering with our hormonal balance, which can lead to cancer in addition to many other disabilities & disorders within the body.
- carcinogenic: aren’t we trying to prevent cancer here??
- petroleum products: why support the oil industry further? This stuff is not meant for our skin!
- only blocking the UVA or UVB rays which both have an effect on the body
- damaging to our DNA: PABA has been banned, but there are lots of other chemicals used in sunscreens today that cause damage. DNA alterations are necessary for cancer to occur.
Our skin is the largest organ in our body & absorbs everything that is slathered onto it. Check out the ‘Sun’ section of the EWG’s cosmetic database to see how your favorite sunscreen or tanning lotion stacks up. Chances are you’re better off avoiding the sun during peak hours.
Malignant melanoma has been found more frequently in sunscreen users compared to non-users in some studies. This type of skin cancer is responsible for 75% of all skin cancer deaths. Plus, you’re blocking out the vitamin D which your body does need some of! Skin Cancer affects about 20% of our population & is very much a lifestyle disease: thus is highly preventable. Check out The Big Burn for more info.