Prevent Skin Cancer with Vitamin D

couple sitting in the sun
June 3, 2014 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
Lily Moran

For the past 30 years, you’ve been told — over and over again — how dangerous it is to spend time in the sun.

Like most people, you’ve probably spent lots of money on sunscreens, sunblock, sunglasses, protective clothing, maybe even an umbrella to protect yourself from those supposedly deadly UV rays.

With all the anti-sun hysteria, you’d think skin cancer would be a thing of the past. Instead, experts at the Centers for Disease Control say they’re seeing “significant” increases in diagnoses and deaths from the disease.

How can that be? After years of coating ourselves with gallons of sunscreen and hiding from the midday sun like vampires, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the nation, with one in five Americans at risk.

You might think that mainstream doctors would look at those statistics and change their recommendations. Instead, they’re doubling down.

Here’s the latest advice from the American Academy of Dermatology’s website: “Seek shade, cover up, and wear sunscreen.” Really? What’s that definition of insanity again? Oh, right — doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

In other words, after decades of this failed policy, the medical establishment is still insisting the sun is the enemy. And they expect us to believe them — even though skin cancer rates are soaring? Sorry, no sale!

There are two simple things you can do to minimize your risk.

First, increase the amount of vitamin D in your body. You can do that with sensible sun exposure on bare skin (no sunscreen, please!), like your arms or legs, so you don’t expose your face or neck and risk developing wrinkles. Limit sunbathing to no more than 20 minutes a day. Overdoing your time in the sun could lead to sunburn, and that definitely does contribute to skin cancer. So use a timer and head for the shade or sunscreen after 20 minutes.

If that doesn’t work — and if you’re a senior, it may not due to changes caused by aging — take 5,000 IUs of vitamin D3 daily. People of color should use vitamin D3 supplements, since they require two to three times as much sun exposure for their skin to produce as much vitamin D as a light-skinned person.

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Just raising your vitamin D levels can reduce your skin cancer risk by 30 to 50 percent, according to one of the leading researchers in the field. And upping your vitamin D intake can protect you against heart disease, multiple sclerosis, immune system disorders, brittle bones, diabetes, and much more.

Remember, every cell in your body is equipped with a vitamin D receptor and needs the nutrient to function properly — that’s how important it is. Yet 99 percent of the patients I see at my practice are vitamin D deficient. And I’m talking about people who live in Southern California, one of the sunniest places on Earth!

If you think I’m exaggerating the importance of this nutrient, let me share an example of how vitamin D3 changed a patient’s life. Stephanie (not her real name) had seen more than a dozen doctors before she came to my clinic. None of them had been able to figure out why the 30-year-old suffered from constant flu-like aches and pains.

Other doctors suggested antidepressants, pain relievers, steroids, even psychotherapy for her “imaginary” illness.

My tests showed the real problem — Stephanie was vitamin D deficient, scoring a very low 9 on the blood test, when she should have been between 50 and 70. She began taking 5,000 IUs of vitamin D3 daily, and started spending a few minutes in the sun every day, gradually increasing the time until she maxxed out at 20 minutes.

In a few months, Stephanie’s aches and pains were gone. “As long as I take my Ds and get a little sun,” she told me at our last visit, “I’m fine. Otherwise, I can feel my joints starting to hurt again.”

Another way to protect against skin cancer — cut back on your intake of omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFAs) and increase omega-3s.

Omega-6s are found in common vegetable oils, like sunflower, soy, safflower, and corn. They’re used in most processed, prepared, and fast foods.

Omega-6s aren’t unhealthy, when eaten in moderation (which isn’t the case for most of those who eat the Standard American Diet.) The ideal ratio for omega-3s and -6s should be roughly equal at 1:1, but the typical American consumes a ratio of 1:20 or worse! Unchecked by omega-3s, omega-6s can promote tumor growth and runaway inflammation, two things that contribute to all kinds of cancer, including skin cancer.

Here’s an easy fix. Throw away vegetable-based cooking oils and cut back on omega-6 sources, like snacks and fast foods. Then add more omega-3s by eating wild-caught fish (no more than once a week, due to pollution) or organic, free-range meats. Omega-3 supplements (3 grams daily) are another option.

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