This weeks blog will feature the relationship between sunscreen use and malignant melanoma (MM or CMM). In the last few years compelling data have confirmed what many scientists have been saying for decades now. That sunscreens are anything but safe. That they may actually be causing the one deadly cancer that their intended use is supposed to decrease. It’s crazy but I’ll show you why this might be possible and yet one more reason why you should try to get some sun (yes you’ll see why) or take enough vitamin D supplement to help prevent one of the most aggressive and deadly cancers in the world. Let’s get started.
To be fair a meta-analysis from 2003 failed to show any association between sunscreen use and MM.
Despite the availability and promotion of sunscreen for decades, the incidence of cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM) continues to increase in the U.S. at a rate of 3% per year. There currently is little evidence that sunscreens are protective against CMM. A number of studies suggest that the use of sunscreen does not significantly decrease the risk of CMM, and may actually increase the risk of CMM and sunburns. [Emphasis mine]
That graph Dr. Exley refers to (in last week’s blog with the linear association between sunscreen use and CMM) is probably similar to the graph of Dr. Elizabeth Plourde, C.L.S., PhD, a health researcher. She has a twenty year history as an endocrine specialist and is the author of the book Sunscreens—Biohazard: Treat as Hazardous Waste. In a You Tube interview from the Awake and Aware conference she displays a poster showing a graph plotting incidence of melanoma over the decades. Starting in about 1973 with the introduction of the first FDA approved UVB blocker in 1978 and the first UVA blocker in 1988 and finally approval of nano titanium (Ti) and zinc (Zn) oxides in 1999. The graph is nearly a straight line for both white men and women, starting with an incidence of about 5 per 100,000 in 1973 to an all time high of 1/52 by 2007.
Dr Plourde explains when you use sunscreens there is no protection from the near infrared rays making up 47% of the solar spectrum, destroying collagen and photoaging the skin. Nanoparticles are causing DNA damage to lab mice and induce death to live coral within 96 hours after being absorbed. We have already lost 40% of the Earth’s plankton and many scientists feel that most of the Earth’s oxygen comes not from the rainforests but from plankton. Nano particles of Ti and Zn kill plankton. But more to the point nano sized Ti and Zn are free to go anywhere in your body once absorbed, right into all of your cells nuclei and organelles causing nanotoxicity. Even more alarming is that these substances are able to easily pass through the blood brain barrier (BBB) into brain tissue where they are observed to kill brain cells. They can also cross the blood-testes barrier to harm the cells responsible for testosterone (T) and sperm production. The coarser preparations that give you the “life guard nose” are much safer since their particle size is orders of magnitude bigger and therefore cannot cross biological membranes.
Their lab tested 18 of the most common sunscreens and found all of them were very potent endocrine disruptive chemicals in the form of testosterone-like molecules, others acted as estrogen-like hormones. Young boys being the most affected because of their potent estrogen-like effects.
Over the last 20 years or so some studies suggested a link and an almost equal number of studies showed no such link. Most of the data that I can find have been evenly split on the association of melanoma and sunscreen use up until the last few years where the data lean in favor of an association between sunscreens and MM. I have listed those studies above.
The theory suggests that sunscreen use may cause you to develop a malignant melanoma by preferentially blocking only UVB rays and not the deeper penetrating UVA rays. Most sunscreens up until the last year or two tended to mostly block UVB and weakly block UVA. The UVA rays are then free to cause oxidative damage in the deeper living tissues and in theory generate free radicals and lipid peroxides which damage DNA and drive the formation of malignant melanoma.
Conversely, there is no conclusive proof of any correlation with melanoma and sun exposure except to say that many melanoma patients had a history of a serious sun burning in the past or what scientists refer to as intermittent intense sun exposure. However, as I mentioned above patients with melanoma do live longer if they sunbathe.
There are three facts about the sun that I have elucidated:
1. Do not burn-ever.
2. Do not use sunscreens except for the mineral type sunscreens of the non-nanoparticle variety and only if you have to.
3. The very best sunscreen is a tan.
“A meta-analysis conducted by University of California San Diego scientists in 2007 found a link between the location of the study (high or low latitude from the equator) and the risk of melanoma in relationship to sunscreen use. According to this analysis, in populations living at latitudes 40 degrees or less from the equator, sunscreen use was not associated with a statistically significant risk of melanoma, while populations in more northern latitudes faced a statistically significant increase in melanoma risk linked with sunscreen use (Gorham 2007). This may be due to more prevalent UVA radiation, relative to UVB, in northern latitudes.
Skin pigmentation may be a factor in these latitude differences (Gorham 2007). Studies finding that sunscreens were protective generally included Mediterranean populations or populations with prevalent Mediterranean ancestry, which have higher degree of constitutive pigmentation. On the other hand, studies conducted among light-skinned populations residing far from the equator (above 40 degrees latitude) generally found a statistically significant 60 percent increase in melanoma risk (Espinosa Arranz 1999, Rodenas 1996). In other words, the ability of sunscreen to protect from melanoma appears to depend on the geographical location and the typical skin pigmentation of the population.”
The first paragraph demonstrates that there is indeed a statistically significant increase in MM with sunscreen use when at 40 degrees latitude or higher. Below 40 degrees no such correlation exists. This might be because below roughly 40 degrees, inhabitants do not experience a Vitamin D Winter where no amount of sunlight will generate any vitamin D. What the second paragraph is trying to say is that if you have a tan, or can easily tan, and you use sunscreen you won’t get any increased risk for melanoma. Note that this population probably do not really need to use sunscreens either because of the darker complexions which of course, provide the best sunscreen. Those with light skin pigmentation-those people who the dermatologist has targeted the most-who use sunscreen have a significantly greater chance of developing MM.
A recent study published in the British Journal of Dermatology tends to exonerate the sun as a cause demonstrating that the reported increases in MM are due to minimal stage 1 disease which is in fact not the deadly form of MM. The author’s state: there was no change in the combined incidence of the other stages of the disease and overall mortality increased only slightly:
“We therefore conclude that the large increase in reported incidence is likely to be due to diagnostic drift, which classifies benign lesions as stage 1 melanoma.”
They further noted that the sites of lesions did not correlate with sun exposed areas. The authors concluded:
“These findings should lead to a reconsideration of the treatment of ‘early’ lesions, a search for better diagnostic methods to distinguish them from truly malignant melanomas re-evaluation of the role of ultraviolet radiation and recommendations for protection from it, as well as the need for a new direction in the search for the cause of melanoma.” [Emphasis mine]
Next week we’ll discuss Nature’s sunscreen, melanin. This evolutionary miracle molecule does what no bench science chemist could ever dream of doing. This is why it is far better to get a tan rather than use a sunscreen. And we’ll talk about how sunscreen may actually promote wrinkles!
 Environmental Working Group (http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2011sunscreen/sunscreens-exposed/sunscreen-and-skin-cancer/) 05/03/2012
 British Journal of Dermatology September 2009; 161(3): 630-634
 Increase in Melanoma Skin Cancer NOT Caused by Sun Exposure Dr. Mercola | November 20 2011
Category: SUN EXPOSURE