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What Do We Mean When We Say "Misuse
Sunscreen is a good product with an intelligent usage: the prevention of
sunburn. It is not necessary to wear this product daily most of the year
in most climates to prevent sunburn. Yet many in the $30 billion
sun-care industry encourage everyone to wear products with sunscreen 365
days a year - no matter where they live. This may in fact cause more
harm than good in the long run. Consider:
- By wearing sunscreen in northern climates
most of the year you totally block your body's ability to produce
vitamin D. New research has shown that vitamin D deficiency is
epidemic in American adults today, that we do not get vitamin D from
our diets and that up to 90 percent of the vitamin D in our systems
comes from sun exposure. Ultraviolet light exposure is the body's
natural way, and the only reliable way, to produce vitamin D. In
fact, according to accepted anthropologic evolutionary theory, that
is why fair-skinned cultures developed fair skin: To better produce
vitamin D from sunlight.
- A study published in March 1998 in the New
England Journal of Medicine showed that more than half of all
Americans may be vitamin D deficient, and that 37 percent of people
whose diet included sufficient levels of vitamin D were still
vitamin D deficient upon blood testing. Vitamin D deficiency is a
leading cause of osteoporosis, a disease affecting 25 million
Americans which leads to 1 million hip and bone fractures every
year. In elderly individuals, such fractures are often deadly.
Encouraging everyone to wear sunscreen all year long in any climate
undoubtedly is contributing to this problem.
- While the tanning industry does support the
use of sunscreens as a tool to prevent sunburn outdoors, we do not
believe it is proper to teach people to wear this product during
times of the year when one would not be able to sunburn outdoors.
That is misbranding the product.
- Women's cosmetics today almost always
contain sunscreen. It is very difficult for women to find products
that do not block UV exposure. Again, while sunscreen is an
excellent product that has an intelligent usage in the fight against
sunburn, overuse of the product may have serious consequences as
well. Because most women wear foundation products daily, their
make-up may be preventing them from producing vitamin D much of the
year. And because women are more likely than men to develop
osteoporosis, making up 18 million of the 25 million Americans
afflicted with the disease, they would stand to benefit even more
from an increase in vitamin D production.
- Vitamin D and sun exposure have been linked
to lower incidence of many internal cancers, most notably breast
cancer. A study published in 1999 by the Northern California Cancer
Center (NCCC) confirmed that women who receive regular sun exposure
are 30-40 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than those
who do not receive regular sunlight. It has been hypothesized that
vitamin D formed in the body through ultraviolet light exposure
plays a role in inhibiting or retarding this disease. Previous
studies have shown a relationship between sun exposure and lower
incidences of breast, colon, ovarian and prostate cancers. This is
an emerging topic and the NCCC study has added credibility to the
relationship. The media and the sun care industry can no longer
ignore that there may be very significant positive effects of
regular sun exposure.
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