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.