The rising rate of skin cancer has put using sunblock right up there with flossing your teeth when it comes to healthy habits. In 2002, 50%, approximately 1.1 million cases of all cancers in the United States were skin cancers, of which nearly 10,000 cases were fatal. It is easy to understand why many people have become fearful of the sun's warmth and glow.
However, it is not commonly appreciated, especially among traditional medical doctors, that the food you eat is far more important to the development of skin cancers than sun exposure. At the beginning of 1900 we had very little processed vegetable oils in our diet. Now vegetables are great and we all need them every day, but when they are processed and refined and consumed in large amounts they can cause major health problems.
Most vegetables are very high in omega-6 fats. In the last 100 years the US population has gone from consuming virtually no vegetable fats to consuming more than 70 pounds per year. Fats from corn oil, safflower, sunflower, sesame and other oils are virtually 100% omega-6 fats. This high consumption of omega-6 fats totally distorts the important omega 6:3 ratio, and this ratio is one of the keys to obtaining any type of cancer, but especially skin cancer. So not only will we benefit from consuming additional omega-3 fats, but it is vital to reduce the omega-6 vegetable oils as much as possible. Ideally, the ratio should be 1:1, but most Americans have a 15:1 ratio. The Japanese are the longest-lived culture on earth, and their ratio is about 3:1.
If you don't believe me on this one, I encourage you to check out one of the top cancer journal articles Cancer Res 2000 Aug 1;60(15):4139-45:
"Epidemiological, experimental, and mechanistic data implicate omega-6 fat as stimulators and long-chain omega-3 fats as inhibitors of development and progression of a range of human cancers, including melanoma."
Ten years ago an Australian study showed a 40% reduction in melanoma for those who were eating fish - and this was without any attention to lowering omega-6 fats. Two years ago, the prestigious National Academy of Sciences published a comprehensive review showing that the omega 6:3 ratio was the key to preventing skin cancer development.
So, do I recommend you pop some fish oil pills and go out and get as much sun as you would like? Absolutely not. You must exercise caution. At the beginning of the season go out gradually, perhaps as little as 10 minutes a day. Progressively increase your time in the sun so that in a few weeks, you will be able to have normal sun exposure with little risk of skin cancer. Remember never to get burned, that is the key. Remember also never to use sunscreen, another key. You can creatively use your clothing to block the sun's rays during your buildup time.
The bottom line is: please avoid getting sucked into the hype that sunlight is dangerous. It is only dangerous if you are clueless about fat nutrition, which most medical doctors are. If you choose to ignore your omega 6:3 ratio and stay out of the sun, you could limit your risk of skin cancer, but is that worth the risk of getting MS, breast or prostate cancer? I think not.
So get yourself some high-quality fish oil, which is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Please remember to switch to the cod liver oil, which contains vitamin D, in the fall, as then you will not be able to get the wonderful amount of sunshine that we have in the summer. If you are going to be a hermit and not get any sun exposure this summer or you are going to bury yourself in dangerous sunscreens, then you should switch to cod liver oil now.