Shining Light on the Truth About Sun Exposure

One of the greatest myths perpetuated by 20th Century marketing scams is the belief that sun exposure is harmful and Sunshinecauses skin cancer. This myth has perpetuated a lack of Vitamin D in this country and may even be INCREASING the incidence of skin cancer due to certain chemicals contained in sunscreen. Let’s look at the truth:

  • Sun exposure is the only truly natural way of increasing Vitamin D levels in the body. More and more research has proven that Vitamin D is ESSENTIAL for good health, mainly because it is not truly a vitamin but is instead of hormone that affects every known body system. Low levels of Vitamin D are associated with increased cancer risk, diabetes, depression, Multiple Sclerosis and other auto-immune disorders, ADHD in children, food allergies, and even melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer. Although it is possible to receive Vitamin D through beef and a few other foods, sun exposure is the the most efficient way to increase blood levels of Vitamin D. Sunscreens effectively STOP the creation of Vitamin D in the body.


  • Recent research estimated that 600,000 cases of colon cancer and breast cancer could be prevented worldwide simply by increasing Vitamin D levels, easily done by receiving 10-15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure on a daily basis. This is especially important in countries north of the Equator. (Per Moore’s Cancer Center, University of California) 
  • Sun exposure is essential for good health and is not the culprit and cause of skin cancer. Severe sunburns are known to increase the risk of basal cell carcinoma, but no statistical evidence proves that sunburn increases the risk of melanoma, a much  more serious form of skin cancer. There is, however, substantial evidence that safe levels of sun exposure (20 minutes to 2 hours per day, based on skintone and geographic location) actually LOWER the risk of melanoma. (See comments that follow on safe ways to avoid a sunburn and what to look for when buying one.) 
  • The effect of sunlight exposure on immunity is so intense that sunlight exposure was actually used to cure Tuberculosis and other illnesses in the early 1900s. Sunlight therapy successfully cured over 81% of cases. Those who were not cured were typically in the final stages of the disease before sunlight therapy was started. To put this in perspective, chemotherapy for cancer only “cures” approximately 60% of recipients, many of which have a re-occurrence later in life. 
  • African Americans and other ethnic groups with darker skin tones do not create Vitamin D very rapidly with sun exposure. These groups typically have lower Vitamin D levels than caucasian groups and need additional sun exposure to normalize levels.


So … what’s a safe way to get sun exposure? Work up gradually. Start with 10-15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure in the Spring during morning hours. As skin pigmentation increases, you can safely increase the amount of tine spent in the sun. Use caution when sunbathing between the hours of 11 am – 2 pm. To avoid dehydration, use caution sunbathing during the heat of the day and take frequent sips of water.


In addition to a variety of preservatives known to be toxic, most commercial sunscreens contain the chemicals Oxybenzone and PABA, both of which are known to increase free radical production in the body and which have been connected to increased cancer rates. These chemicals are also known endocrine disruptors known to increase estrogen levels (such as is common in some forms of breast cancer) and create hormone imbalances. Recent studies showed that people using the highest amounts of chemical sunscreens actually had the highest rates of skin cancer. This research hasn’t been widely reported because it flies in the face of conventional “wisdom.” The fact it also stands to harm an industry based on chemical use also plays a part.

Personally, I don’t use sunscreens unless I know I’m at risk of becoming sunburned. Using long-sleeved clothing and pants is one approach. If I’m going to be at the beach or poolside, I use a mineral-based sunscreen and only use it while the sun is the most intense and the risk of burning is the highest. Has this unprotected sun exposure damaged my skin? I’d say not, especially since I frequently receive compliments on how young my skin looks. The bottom line is that you protect your skin from the inside out, by eating a diet rich in anti-oxidant rich fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, etc.

My favorite sunscreens include:

I spent 15 minutes creating links to specific brands of sunscreen I use and approve of, only to have Blogger fail to save my work. I had luckily copied most of this post to notepad a few minutes earlier, but lost my links. Instead of re-creating those links, visit this link to see a list of ones I like:


1.  Nutrition Reviews, Volume 65, Supplement 1, August 2007, pp. 91–95(5)
2. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, Volume 2 Issue 2 Page 86–98, April 2003
3. Preventive Medicine February 4, 2007
4. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 85(6):1586–91 June 2007
5. Wilkinson, Robert J. Influence of vitamin D deficiency and vitamin D receptor
polymorphisms on tuberculosis among Gujarati Asians in west London: a case-control study. The Lancet 355: No. 9204, p618. 19 Feb 2000.
6. Nursyam EW, Amin Z, Rumende CM. The effect of vitamin D as supplementary treatment in patients with moderately advanced pulmonary tuberculous lesion. Acta Med Indones. 2006 Jan–Mar; 38(1):3–5.
7. British Journal of Nutrition October 2005; 94(4): 483–492
8. J Clinical Endocrinology Metabolism September 2007; 92(9) 3517–22
9. The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology March 2007; 103(3-5):708–11
10. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 79, No. 3, 362–371, March 2004
11. Diabetes Care March 2006; 29(3): 722–724
12. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 84, No. 4, 694–697, October 2006
13. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 19, 2001; 98(13): 7510–7515.
14. Cancer Research. 2000 Aug 1;60(15):4139–45.

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Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.

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4 Responses to Shining Light on the Truth About Sun Exposure

  1. […] in our system. Nitric oxide is known to lower blood pressure and improve heart health. Please read Shining Light on the Truth About Sun Exposure for more information about the necessity of sun […]

  2. Mary Sahs says:

    I’ve had wonderful results preventing sunburn using plain, raw soy oil as my “suntan lotion.” It absorbs remarkably well and lasts a long time. Two hours of hot sun, and zero redness. Amazing, since I tend to burn easily.

    • GWWR says:

      Wow, Mary, I never heard of that. Thanks so much! I know some people have good luck with shea butter, but soy oil would have never occurred to me. Will have to see if I can find some organic, since I’d rather not slather GMOs all over me. LOL

  3. Anonymous says:

    Even for some skin problems a constant sun exposure is a therapy, it's the case in psoriatic patients, my father skin looks better after spend time under the sun!! / last year I used less sunscreen in my little son if I knew I was just to spend a few time exposed, and also there are certain points to focus like face and shoulders and NOT put sunscreen in entirely body, I think is not needed. Good article!

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