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Is it true that sunbathing increases the risk of skin cancer?

Although it is a common believe, research show the opposite. 

For example, a study showed that the cases of melanoma are increasing enormously amongst people who work indoors – and who have 3 to 9 times less exposure to the sun, than those who work outdoors. 

On the other hand, countries with the most sun exposure have lower rates of skin cancer. 

Why?
Data indicates that what increases the risk of skin cancer is sunburning or being exposed to the sun intermittently.
People who are exposed to the sun every day without burning (instead of tanning and getting sunburned once a year) receive all the benefits of the sun without increasing the risk of cancer. 

Vitamin D and the benefits of the sun

One of the biggest benefits of the sun is vitamin D, which your body produces when the skin is in contact with daylight, specifically with ultraviolet B rays. 

That vitamin D is a natural defence against cancer and helps counteracting the damage on the skin that ultraviolet A rays could cause is you are exposed to the sun excessively (until getting sunburned)

A study found that vitamin D could prevent 30 deaths for every death caused by skin cancer. And another study showed that for every death by skin cancer in Europe, between 60 and 100 people die of a heart attack or hypertension, conditions related to the lack of vitamin D and a lack of exposure to the sun. 

Vitamin D is essential for the repair functions of your body. Almost all types of human cells have D vitamin receptors. Besides, it influences genetic expression and regulates defences. 

Other benefits of being exposed to the sun: 

  • It improves your mood
  • It regulates arterial pressure
  • It synchronizes the biological rhythms of your body
  • It improves many skin conditions
  • It prevents tuberculosis, cancer, hypertension, Alzheimer’s, dementia, myopia, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

Is it recommendable to use sunscreen?

There is little evidence that sunscreen can help prevent the risk of skin cancer. A study showed that those who use sunscreen are more likely to develop melanoma or carcinoma. 

Many ingredients in sunscreen are related to an increase in the risk of skin cancer. Several of the most common ingredients are hormonal disruptors, such as parabens. Oxybenzone, which is on 70% of commercial sunscreens, has been linked to the reduction of sperm in men and endometriosis in women. 

Recommendations:

  • Always avoid burning. If your skin starts tanning, it’s time to cover up. 
  • In order to protect yourself from the sun, you can cover up with long sleeves, a hat or an umbrella. 
  • Prefer natural sunscreens, based on zinc oxide or titanium oxide
  • If you’re going to use commercial sunscreen, check that it doesn’t have oxybenzone, Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) and other substances (you can consult a list here). Avoid sprays, powders or an SPF over 50.
  • Sunbathe every day, briefly. This increases your vitamin D production. Try exposing other parts of the body, not just the face or arms. 
  • The paler the skin tone, the more vulnerable you are to sunburning and the less exposure you need to the sun. You can increase your tolerance slowly, always without burning, to make sure to produce enough vitamin D. 
  • To protect yourself more, eat foods rich in antioxidants and healthy fats. 
  • You can measure your vitamin D with an analysis. It is advisable to have between 40 and 60ng/ml. 

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