Sun Avoidance as Dangerous as Smoking

Avoiding sunlight is one of the most dangerous risks to your health! So much so that a recent study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine found that avoiding the sun “is a risk factor for death of a similar magnitude as smoking.”[1]

The study was done with approximately 30,000 Swedish women over 20 years. Those women who had moderate to most active sun exposure had a lower risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and lung diseases than those who avoided sun exposure. In addition, those who avoided the sun had a shorter lifespan and those with more exposure had an increase in overall health benefits.

Another powerful finding of this study was that women who developed the most serious type of skin cancer (melanoma), and were exposed to regular sun exposure (not including the affected area), had a better prognosis.

This study reinforces what holistic doctors and practitioners have written about through the ages – that direct sunlight is critically important for health. It is true that excessive sunlight can cause burns which increases skin cancer risk – but a lack of sunlight can be even more dangerous! As with many things in life balance is the key!

To properly use sunscreen there are some important there are some things you need to know. First do not be paranoid about sun exposure. If you have the type of skin that burns easily and you will be in sunlight more than 10-15 minutes, then use a sunscreen that will protect against sunburn. If you do not burn easily and will be in the sun for more than a few hours of time, then use a sunscreen to cover exposed areas after some initial exposure. You will need to reapply sunscreen every few hours or more often if in the water. Choose a sunscreen that has a sun protection factor of 15 or higher. Avoid products that contain parabens that are linked to cancer.

Finally, consume foods that absorb UV rays and protect skin burning and damage. These are the carotenoid rich foods rich in the phytonutrient lycopene as found in tomatoes (especially tomato sauce as heat releases the lycopene), peaches, watermelon, carrots, broccoli, and spinach.

Avoid sunscreens that contain parabens that are linked to cancer and hormone disruption. Other chemicals found in sunscreens that are also hormone disrupters include oxybenzone, octinoxate, homosalate, octisalate, and octocrylene.[2]

Also avoid sunscreens that contain retinyl palmitate, a type of vitamin A which may increase the development of skin cancer. Use sunscreens that use titanium or zinc oxide. There are plenty of “cleaner” sunscreens available from health food stores.


[1] Lindqvist PG, Epstein E, Nielsen K, Landin-Olsson M, Ingvar C, Olsson H (Karolinska University Hospital, Lund University, Lund, Sweden). Avoidance of sun exposure as a risk factor for major causes of death: a competing risk analysis of the Melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort. J Intern Med 2016; doi: 10.1111/joim.12496.

[2] Environmental Working Group website. EWG’s Guide to Sunscreens. Accessed April 17, 2016 at