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“Don't go out without sunscreen.”
“Cover up that skin.”
“How strong should it be?”
“Is SP15 OK?  Do I need a stronger one to stay out longer?”  

People are worried about skin cancer and they should be. But only about 4 per cent of skin cancers are Melanoma, the most dangerous kind. 1 per cent of skin cancers are Malignant Melanoma, the fatal kind.
More and more studies though, show us that everything we thought about staying in the sun with sunscreen may not be so right or so healthy any more.

New studies suggest that it’s the Vitamin D from the sun that protects us from skin cancer. But the same sunscreen ingredient that protects us against Ultraviolet light penetration and sunburn also prevents the production of Vitamin D. Sunscreens as low as SP 8 prevent Vitamin D production. Sunscreen has shown to be effective with protecting against Basal cell and Squamas cell skin cancers. But studies have linked the stronger cancers like malignant melanoma to sunscreen. Those areas of concern are;
1) Potentially carcinogenic properties of the ingredients that produce free radicals
2) Vitamin D deficiency caused by reduced exposure to UV light
3) Incomplete protection against the full ultraviolet spectrum combined with increased time spent in the sun.

In 1999 an analysis on 13 epidemiological studies on the relationship between sunscreen use to melanoma risk found
3 studies showed a decreased risk of melanoma
6 studies were inconclusive
4 studies showed increased risk of melanoma.

In 2002 in the British Journal of Dermatology, a review found
2 studies showed a protective effect of sunscreen use
3 studies showed significant risks associated with sunscreen use

By reducing the skins exposure to UVB radiation, sunscreen suppresses the skin's production of its' natural photoprotectant, melanin and the lack of melanin increases the risk of melanoma.

Five to thirty minutes of sun exposure twice a week without sunscreen should give you enough healthy Vitamin D. Salmon, fish oils, egg yolks and cheeses are also sources of Vitamin D.  

Too much exposure to the sun (especially having a history of frequent sunburns) can be a factor in skin cancer as well as having a weakened immune system. To be effective at all, sunscreen also needs to be applied at least every two hours. But using sunscreen also allows us to be in the sun much longer, so there is more skin damage from the sun than there would be otherwise.  

What's the answer?
Don't use too much sunscreen. It's better to use less sunscreen and stay in the sun for shorter times than to use a lot and stay out longer. Get the healthiest, most organic sunscreens available. Get out in the sun for short periods of time without sunscreen a couple times a week for your Vitamin D.

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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      UK Girl wrote Jun 22, 2009
    • I have heard that about less sunscreen and stay in the sun shorter - plus it has the added benefit of actually giving you a better tan if that is what your after ....

      Being of Irish decent I have pale skin , freckles and yes i burn very easily - so I have always used high SP in fact 30 years ago I could only find one place selling total sunblock for my holidays to the South of France and it was like white lard ...... but I don’t have lines on my forehead and my chest isn’t as crepey as my friends who all did the burn with oil .....



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Marya1961 wrote Jun 22, 2009
    • I find for myself being more of an olive skin tone and not burning too much, that I tend to use a 30 SPF in the beginning and usually drop to a 15 SPF as I build a tan, but I also don’t bake in the sun for hours and try to get a small amount every day, it also lasts longer that way.

      Mary estatic



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Jewelrybyirina wrote Jun 22, 2009
    • Very useful article,
      thank you!
      I try to use sunscreen less.  I need to find an organic one.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Angela 'Cocco' Williams wrote Jun 22, 2009
    • HI Doc,
      Thanks for the article it was very informative to me. You will most likely laugh at this but its okay cause joy is a good thing. As you can see I am brown estatic to be honest I never really thought about sunburn or sunblock. It really never crossed my mind. I use to own a daycare center and about 2 years ago another brown mom asked me if I could put sunblock on her son when we went outside. I looked at her really funny and just started to laugh because to me it was just cute the way she asked me. Of course I did it for her and just because I was doing it for her son I asked other parents if they would like to bring sunblock for their children. To make a long story short, because I was already tannnnnnnn I never considered that I may get sun tanned or burnt even. This year I participated in an all day rummage sale and I wore a tank top. When I got home and took the shirt off I had the outline of my shirt and I was maybe about 2 shades darker! I just started laughing because i got a sun tan estatic It was to cool. That was in April I still have that shirt print. I didn’t peel like my adopted daughter and it didn’t hurt. It just surprised me cause I never considered that brown people tan too! Thanks for sharing with me.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Tina Sickinger wrote Jun 22, 2009
    • It’s a good fact to know for the grandchildren playing out in the sun in the summer also.

      Thank you for the information.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Shauna1957 wrote Jun 22, 2009
    • I have had skin cancer. Basal cell luckily. But, it was on my eyelid. So it was removed and when it reocurred I had to have my eyelid reconstructed. You can’t put sunscreen that close to your eye. I’m suppose to wear sunglasses and a hat or visor when I’m out and of course sunscreen everywhere. Have had precancerous things removed off my nose too. So you seem to be damned if you do and damned if you don’t use sunscreen. I used to bake int he sun as a child and teenager. I tan easily, but can burn at the beginning of the summer if I’m not careful. Now, I’m a bit confused about the best way to proceed...sunscreen or not, hmmm. I will have to investigate a little bit more into this matter. Thanks for the info.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Sunkist wrote Jun 22, 2009
    • I did hear lately that you should get between 5-30 min. of vitamin D from the sun a few days a week.  I was so happy because I live in south Florida and its hard to put on sun screen every time you walk outside.  I use 15 SPF when I’m at the beach or in the sun for prolonged periods of time and I never burn.  

      Thank you for your article, this is right up my alley!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Traveldiva wrote Jun 22, 2009
    • Thanks Dr. for the reminder.

      Having had Cancer and endured Radiation, even with Olive skin you can burn. I also have found that as I age, I burn a lot faster and easier if I do not wear sun block. Recently at my nephews graduation I was burned to a crips in just 2 hours...which schocked me. I never thought to take the sun block with me. So my suggestion from having been burned to a crisp several times when not carrying my sun block, even with italian olive skin, I would take a small bottle of what ever is your passion, and be sure that your makeup contains sun block so you are protected and you can still tan, you just won’t burn.

      As a travel consultant I have suggested many ideas to my clients but sun block is always on the list first.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Allnatural wrote Jun 22, 2009
    • I am vitamin D deficient, but I am also paler than pale, and if I don’t wear sunscreen, I might as well stay in the house all the time.

      My dad had pre-cancerous lesions removed from his forehead when he was living.  The dermatologist told him to never go outside without sunscreen because his skin was thin.  Mine is, too.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Angelface1 wrote Jun 23, 2009
    • I honestly did not know about this at all and will make sure to tell my children and husband as they burn easily. We do not bake in the sun but I have always made sure to have them put sunscreen on when we are outside for long periods of time.  Thank you for the information



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Venutianfrommars wrote Jun 23, 2009
    • This is very interesting.  I am deliciously pink and have never worshipped the sun (except that one failed afternoon when I was 14—boring!).  I venture into the “weather” every day walking to and from my public transportation and do not put sunscreen on.  I hope that this 1 mile jaunt into the weather will satisfy my Vitamin D requirements.  But, if I plan to spend any time in the yard or at the beach, my pale complexion demands sunscreen.  Fifteen minutes of noon-day sun and the burn has begun.  The worst part of a painful sunburn is that it has never turned into a tan; not even the freckles get darker, only more plentiful.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Bea Kunz wrote Jun 23, 2009
    • Good Morning Dr. Madden

      I’m delighted to meet you.

      Your profile is interesting and your information is sound and useful.

      I love that you were/are a Mr.Mom dad...my brother made this choice when his son was a baby...now a healthy/happy young man in his first year of college.  

      I’ve been practicing and educating myself/family on and about  “natural” health care for years. Finding a balance has been a project , not a lot of options in the area of the country I reside.

      I depend a lot on the written word and my own common sense.

      I grew up on a farm and was taught to plan my outside time around short doses.

      I don’t use any sunscreen unless it is naturally derived.
      I wear a hat and sleeves if I’m out for more than an hour.

      I own and work a commercial herb farm...so I’m outside a lot.

      Actually I have never been sunburned that I can recall...certainly not since being an adult.

      I’m healthy and very active at 67 years of age.
      And...content that I’m passing on information that will allow my children/grandchildren to be aware of and have the know-how to follow the same good choices.

      Looking forward to reading more from you.
      And welcome to the network.

      Bea Kunz
      [Link Removed]


      Farmerbea, Your links have been removed, please consider upgrading to premium membership.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Allnatural wrote Jun 23, 2009
    • I forgot to say in my comment, that we only use natural products here, to include sunscreen.  I do put it on if I’m going to be outside for more than a few minutes, because that’s all it takes for me to burn.  And my burns don’t turn into a tan, ever.  Back when I was a teenager, I spent a considerable amount of time trying to get a tan.  I used a low SPF sunscreen and gradually increased my time in the sun every day, but I never got anything.  I either get nothing (with sunscreen), or I burn/peel.  

      Audrey



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Debbie McGinn wrote Jun 24, 2009
    • Thank you for sharing this information.  I believe everything in moderation.  I do spend a lot of time outside during the warmer weather - am an avid gardener.  I find that if I am out during later morning or early afternoon, I use sunscreen - but before and after those times, I do not.  Am I correct in the fact that a PABA-Free sunscreen is better for you and your skin?  A lot of Anti-Aging Day creams have an SPF as well - usually no more than SPF 15 or 25.  What I understand with those as well, is you want to stay away from those types of products with Paraben.  

      Deb



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Michael Madden DC wrote Jun 24, 2009
    • Debbie,
      You‘re right about Paraben as an ingredient. They‘re everywhere though; they‘re in lots of cosmetics and they‘re also used as a food preservative. Parabens may now be in the middle of where a lot of medications, natural supplements, consumer products end up; between initially being labeled as completely safe and eventually being taken off the market as dangerous or at least unhealthy. Some studies show a possible estrogenic carcinogenic possibility and others say that it’s not significant. But everyone pretty much agrees that at the very least we‘re not sure any more. So when you can avoid them, do so but don’t go crazy trying to completely change your life because of them yet.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      40andwhere wrote Jun 27, 2009
    • I worked for a Dermatologist for two years, and I noticed that almost every rep. that came in to give her samples of Lotions, there was suncreen in all of them.
      That means that the lotion that I put on my face during the day, had sunscreen in it.  Of course Neutrogena was the most favored, but the doctor did prefer shorter time exposed to the sun over anything else.  She said if you had to be in the sun, because you liked to tan, she insisted on using sunscreen.  Sunscreen with Helioplex in it was her favorite.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Debbie McGinn wrote Jun 29, 2009
    • Bernadette68, regarding the part of your comment about how sunscreen feels on your skin - as a Beauty Advisor, I would recommend that you check your sunscreen to make sure that it is PABA Free - a lot of sunscreens do not contain that ingredient anymore, but some still do.  Many people have had adverse skin reactions using an SPF w/PABA.  Also, please make sure you drink plenty of water to help keep you hydrated  :)

      DrMadden, are their other ingredients in sunscreens that can block your pores?



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Michael Madden DC wrote Jun 29, 2009
    • The best ingredients seems to be zinc oxide and titanium compounds because they absorb the dangerous part without plugging the pores. But a lot of people don’t like them because they can leave kind of a chalky residue. Other ingredients like oxybenzone have shown good blocking abilities but have come under fire recently by some research groups. Here’s an article in the New York Times from last year about this. I know it’s all confusing but the more of an informed decision you make, the better you’ll feel about it. So gather info from both sides and decide.
      [Link Removed]
      Good luck.


      Drmadden, Your links have been removed, please consider upgrading to premium membership.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Judah1 wrote Jun 30, 2009
    • estatic both if not used the right way
      with wisdom and understanding



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Sue Urda wrote Jul 1, 2009
    • Dr. Madden,

      Thanks for the info.  What specific brands and types of sunscreen would you consider to be safe?  This will make shopping easier!  Thanks!

      with gratitude,
      Sue



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Michael Madden DC wrote Jul 1, 2009
    • Here’s the most recent list of what sunscreens are deemed the safest. Be careful this weekend in the sun but enjoy it.
      [Link Removed]


      Drmadden, Your links have been removed, please consider upgrading to premium membership.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Dana Arcuri wrote Jul 3, 2009
    • I am the #1 candidate to burn in the sun, due to my fair skin, light blue eyes and reddish brown hair.  However, I definitely take advantage of getting natural vitamin D by spending 30 minutes outdoors walking without any sunscreen.  In addition, I do take extra vitamin D supplements because last year I was diagnosed with having insufficient vitamin D levels.  

      If I am ever in the sun for a prolonged time, I use SPF 30 and I reapply every two hours.  

      I definitely would love to start using organic products because I am a great believer in natural ingredients!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      RUTHIE BROWN wrote Jul 7, 2009
    • I like this,and I agree.. I am Swedish descent,and I have not been in the Sun much this summer.. 4th of July was my 1st sunburn of the season,and Yes, I did use sunblock,but still burned. (I use self tanning creams in lieu of natural color)

      I think modern sun and sunscreen is very good advice.. I also take Vitamin D daily..

      Thank U..
      Ruthieestatic



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