Prevent skin cancer by avoiding the sun? Not necessarily.

By, Reuben Chow

The sun is out for most of us, and exposure to sunlight typically brings with it fears of skin cancer. Many people avoid the sun totally to prevent this fate, but is that a wise choice? The research on how sun exposure, sunburn and skin cancer are linked could surprise many.

Let’s examine some facts behind this argument.

First and foremost, you need to be aware that there are different types of skin cancer, and melanoma is the most deadly one, as it tends to spread quickly to other parts of the body. Fatality rates for non-melanoma skin cancers are actually very low — less than 0.5% of sufferers die from them. US statistics suggest that your likelihoods of dying from food poisoning (over four times) and medical errors (over 650 times) are far higher. It’s clearly melanoma that kills.

Sunburn does raise melanoma risk

Long-term and excessive exposure to sunlight can indeed raise non-melanoma skin cancer risk. However, there’s almost no evidence suggesting that such exposure without sunburn would raise melanoma risk.

But when sunburn occurs, melanoma risk does increase. And the more frequent or severe the sunburns, the higher the risk.

Sunlight exposure without sunburn lowers melanoma risk

There’s more — significant research suggests that exposure to sunlight without sunburn actually lowers melanoma risk, while lack of exposure increases your risk.

For example, research conducted on US sailors from 1974 to 1984 found that those who worked indoors had higher rates of melanoma than those who worked outdoors, while those who worked both indoors and outdoors had the lowest rate. Further, melanomas occurred more often on areas of the body which were not exposed to sunlight (trunk, upper back and legs), while non-melanoma skin cancers more often occurred on the face and hands.

Two large European studies in 2004 and 2005 found that sunlight and UV radiation without sunburn were not melanoma-causative factors, but in fact helped prevent it.

Vitamin D

An oft-neglected element of the issue is that sunlight exposure is actually needed for the body to produce vitamin D. And vitamin D has been shown in hundreds of studies to help decrease cancer risk plus improve the survival outcomes of cancer sufferers.

For example, in vitro research in Germany found that vitamin D lowered the spread of melanoma cells by up to 50%. Other studies concurred. This vitamin also helped stop small melanomas from progressing to clinical cases.

Lack of vitamin D not only raises one’s skin cancer risk but also elevates the risk of many types of cancer, including those of the breast, colon, kidneys, lungs, ovaries, pancreas, prostate, rectum, stomach, thyroid, blood, etc.


It’s important to note that sunscreen lotions actually inhibit the body’s ability to make vitamin D, and they also contain compounds which are toxic, even carcinogenic.

In 1992, doctors Frank and Cedric Garland wrote that, “worldwide, the countries where chemical sunscreens have been recommended and adopted have experienced the greatest rise in malignant melanoma.”

Even if they do not raise melanoma risk, research has also found that sunscreen lotions do not actually protect against melanoma.


It’s clear that melanoma is the deadly skin cancer which you should most guard against. And, putting everything together, it seems that the wise thing to do to lower your risk is to obtain regular and moderate sunlight exposure while avoiding intermittent overexposure.

To prevent sunburn, which raises melanoma risk, build your body’s resistance to sunlight gradually, particularly light-skinned individuals, as light skin burns more easily. Avoid the midday sun. Reconsider sunscreen use and consume plenty of antioxidants, as they protect against sunburn.

Sources for this article include:

Moss, Ralph W, PhD. Cancer Therapy: The Independent Consumer’s Guide To Non-Toxic Treatment & Prevention. Lemont, PA: Equinox Press, 1996. Print.

Alschuler, Lise N, ND, FABNO, and Gazella, Karolyn A. The Definitive Guide to Cancer: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment, and Healing. 3rd ed. NY, USA: Celestial Arts, 2010. Print.

About the author:
Reuben Chow has a keen interest in natural health and healing as well as personal growth.

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