Let the Sunshine In?

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

For many years I have been vacillating between using sunscreen to avoid skin cancer & not using sunscreen to avoid a deficiency in Vitamin D. (Our bodies make Vitamin D when we are exposed to the sun.) Since I do not “bake” in the sun and almost always seek shade on a sunny day, I lean towards avoiding sunscreen, especially those with questionable ingredients. (For a list of safe sunscreens go to the Environmental Working Group’s website, www.ewg.com)

According to one of my sources, Needs, a combination information flyer and catalog for supplements (www.needs.com), low levels of Vitamin Dare linked to three important risks that older people, like me, have concerns about: muscle weakness, risk of falls, and bone fractures.

Needs cites a new study from May 2012 that found lower levels of vitamin D to be associated with poorer coordination and weaker strength in women, as well as slower walking time and reduced upper limb strength in older men. For both men and women, the study revealed a weaker aerobic capacity.

Bone health depends both on calcium and on Vitamin D, but most people don’t think about a deficiency in vitamin D, which results in rickets in children and osteomalacia or osteoporosis in adults. Additionally, Vitamin D may have other functions, such as helping with the immune system and reducing the effects of infectious diseases.

In the article there is one other important link that the Harvard School of Public Health has found, that is, an association between Vitamin D levels and the risk of heart attacks. (That’s a new piece of information for me! )

From another source that came from Australia and reported in, newsmax.com, there was an informative and somewhat alarming article on skin cancer & the sun. “According to the Skin Cancer Foundation more than 600,000 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year and the figures are still rising. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and is responsible for 8,500 deaths annually. ” (This email was dated 2007, even though I recently received it, so by now the numbers may be higher.)


Getting a tan still seems  to be a popular summer activity. Is it safe? Are the sunscreens safe?

According to the article, some experts are suggesting that the formulas used for sunscreen itself may be cancer-causing. The article points again to the Environmental Working Group mentioned above. For women, this next quote from the article may be very important: “Some sunscreen ingredients also change estrogen levels in the body affecting DNA and causing cell damage by creating free radicals.”

So a deficiency in Vitamin D is serious, even possibly fatal, according to the studies that Needs has presented. And many commercial sunscreens are not safe, according to the Australian-based article. While this article  recommends a particular brand of naturally derived sunscreen, I would still check out the Environmental Working Group for its complete list of safe sunscreens.

Also, since most experts in the field are still not sure what level of Vitamin D is considered a deficiency, I am planning to ask my doctor if there is a test for Vitamin D levels, so I can decide whether or not to use sunscreen whenever I am in the sun, or wait until I have 15-20 minutes of sun on my skin to absorb Vitamin D, before applying sunscreen. Decisions! Decisions!


P.S. Many years ago, when I first read about sunscreen’s pros & cons, the article I read said that the oil in sunscreen can turn rancid on your skin and that a better idea was to put cream on your skin after you swim, shower, and before dressing. I did not save the article, so I will have to investigate this more. If I find anything to corroborate this, I will post it.

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