Sunlight Cures, Fake Light Kills
How sunlight cures everything — yes, you read that right
Quantum Nutrition, Episode 6
The sun reduces all-cause mortality. In layman’s terms, this means that the more sun you get, the more likely (or the longer) you are likely to survive. Fake light, meanwhile, is linked to every kind of disease you could want to avoid (as I talk about here).
The word “nourish” means, “to bring up.” Sunlight nourishes our world, allowing plants to literally grow up, into the sky, so that we can eat them and their fruits. We are in turn brought up on a diet that is tied to the availability of sunlight in our natural environment. The only animal that eats a non-seasonal, non-local diet? Homo sapiens. The only species of animal on earth that thinks the sun is more dangerous than their microwave oven? Also, homo sapiens.
Watch Doctor Jack Kruse’s talk at Shelburne Farms, Vermont, in 2017 if you want to know how deep that rabbit hole goes.
The sun reduces all-cause mortality. It’s that simple. If you have a strong family history, that might be another story. Maybe you are the one in a million who has a mutation that predisposes to melanoma. I tell people this all the time, but they always tell me they are worried about skin cancer. I respect their concerns about skin cancer, but the irony is that they are far, far more likely to suffer and die of a disease linked to a lack of sun. What are the top ten killers of Americans today?
Heart disease: 635,260
Accidents (unintentional injuries): 161,374
Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 154,596
Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 142,142
Alzheimer’s disease: 116,103
Influenza and pneumonia: 51,537
Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 50,046
Intentional self-harm (suicide): 44,965
These figures are courtesy of the CDC.
Every single one of the above diseases is linked to reduced sun exposure. Not listed above include two key categories of disease, autoimmunity and allergy, which are strongly associated with lack of sun exposure. These two categories of disease are driving many of the above causes of death.
I have yet to see anyone die of an invasive non-melanoma skin cancer, in five years of practice. (Caveat: this does happen. I dermatologist recently emailed me and suggested that I just “keep practicing.” I know he is right). The only case I have heard of was a patient who covered the lesion with her sunglasses, because she did not want to see a doctor about it. She let it grow to the size of a golf-ball before finally she could not hide it anymore. She had to have her entire face reconstructed. Melanoma kills about 7,000 people per year in the United States. Those who present early to their doctor with skin cancer need about 15 minutes worth of the doctor’s time and one or two quick movements with a scalpel to remove the lesion. Regular surveillance has dramatically dropped risks of skin cancer. Contrast this with other cancers, which are often the size of golf-balls, grapefruit, or even melons by the time we find them. I have seen plenty of people die of melanoma. I share the average person’s respect for this disease. Yet, on balance, I would take skin cancer of any kind over cancer of the internal organs any day of the week. Avoiding the sun because you are worried about skin cancer is like avoiding fresh food because you’re worried about food poisoning.
What Is So Magical About the Sun?
Let’s start with a quick refresher on how evolution works. The strong survive. They survive by staying within what ecologists call a “niche.” The polar bear’s niche is the Arctic. If you take a polar bear to the Equator, the polar bear will die. This would be too far outside of its niche. Every animal has a niche and is optimized to survive in that niche. Humans are no exception. This is why technology can harm us. We can alter our environment in ways that weaken, or even kill us. Fake light, fake food, fake magnetic fields, and fake news alter life and confuse it, leading to disease and disability.
The Sun Is Nature’s Most Important Signal
Light is the main mechanism by which our bodies keep track of time. Light shapes life largely by turning our circadian rhythms, as I wrote about here. I never wear sunglasses or sunscreen, as I wrote about here. Artificial light at night is toxic and contributes to everything from Alzheimer’s to autoimmune diseases.
Sunlight, on the other hand, exerts powerful protective effects through a number of mechanisms.
First, sunlight is what tells our bodies what time it is (see “Light Shapes Life” for an explanation).
Second, sunlight is mostly red and infrared light. Why do you think people like saunas and sweat lodges? These practices are ubiquitous in northern climates. This is a quantum adaptation, not a coincidence.
Third, sunlight contains ultraviolet light, which, in addition to fish and shellfish, is our main source of vitamin D. And that is just the first thing it does for us.
Why is timing important to melanoma? Because melatonin protects us from melanoma. Fake light shuts down melatonin production, robbing life of its most important character in the nightly process of repair and regeneration. The more artificial light we get at night, specifically in the blue and green spectrum, the more we increase the likelihood that we will end up with a blue-lit disease like cancer, including melanoma. If you have not yet picked up a pair of RaOptics to shield your eyes from blue light and preserve your melatonin levels, you might want to go ahead and order one now.
Why are red and infrared light important to melanoma? Photobiomodulation and low-level light therapy for melanoma are promising avenues for therapy, given that melanoma tends to be visible (unless it has metastasized). If we could figure out the frequencies of light that inhibited malignant transformation of melanoma or destroyed melanomas, we could radically alter the morbidity and mortality of these diseases. If light is the determinant of skin disease (and there’s plenty to suggest that it is), then why can’t we use it therapeutically?
Saunas are effectively just infrared and red light “baths.” The health benefits of sauna are staggering. They make most drugs, surgeries, and diets look pathetic by comparison (at least in terms of the cost/benefit ratio). If saunas reduce all-cause mortality (and they do), then how might sauna bathing alter mortality and morbidity of skin cancer?
Finally, sunlight contains ultraviolet light. UV light is present year-round in the tropics. It is available in the summer months elsewhere, with short periods of only a few months around the poles and progressively longer intervals as one approaches the tropics. UV light makes vitamin D in our skin, and vitamin D is essential for life. Low vitamin D levels are strongly associated with an increased risk of developing melanoma.
UV light doesn’t just produce vitamin D, it triggers the release of endorphins and endocannabinoids in your body. What do these chemicals do? They are part of signaling cascades that modulate metabolism, immunity, and physiology. Hormone like cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are also modulated by sunlight. One of the key processes that these signaling molecules affect is what we call “apoptosis,” or cell suicide. A cancer cell is supposed to commit suicide. This protects life from cancer. We should assume, in light of evolution, that the sun is a partner in this dance and that excluding it from our lives could trigger radical changes in the incidence of diseases, including cancer. As we will cover shortly, melanoma rates are increasing despite increasing time indoors, use of sunscreen, and sunglasses. So are rates of other cancers. How does that make sense?
So is avoiding sunlight a wise choice if you are trying to avoid disease? Avoiding the sun for fear of skin cancer is like avoiding fresh food for fear of food poisoning. The risk of melanoma and the risk of food poisoning are real risks, but the risks of diseases far more likely to kill you, and cause you to suffer in the meantime, are far, far higher.
Paradoxes of Melanoma
Melanoma often occurs in skin that never sees the sun. It is not uncommon for it to appear under a toenail, on a buttock, or on your torso. These areas get much less sun than, say, your hands or face. If the sun causes melanoma, then why doesn’t melanoma overwhelmingly favor these locations?
What does the literature say?
The literature is about as clear as mud. What is clear is that the sun is not the only cause.
Here’s one paper’s conclusion:
“Role of country, inclusion of controls with dermatological diseases and other study features seemed to suggest that “well conducted” studies supported the intermittent sun exposure hypothesis: a positive association for intermittent sun exposure and an inverse association with a high continuous pattern of sun exposure.”
Translation: the best way to get melanoma is to be a modern-day office worker who eats processed foods, and to occasionally wander outside long enough to get sunburned. If you are a farmer who sees the sun every single day, you are far less likely to get melanoma, provided that you avoid sunburn.
What caused the other 35%? This pattern suggests a complex mechanism involving multiple environmental factors in the causation of melanoma. Saying that sun exposure causes melanoma is like saying that swimming causes shark attacks. There are clearly behaviors and choices that we can make that alter the likelihood of both.
“That 20% of the world’s melanomas are estimated to occur in Black African and Asian populations and are of unknown cause would justify studies of the causes of melanoma in these populations.”
Translation: we should figure out what is causing 20% of melanoma cases that are definitely not due to sun exposure.
One study looked at how continued sun exposure after a diagnosis of melanoma affected mortality. Here is what they found.
“Sun exposure is associated with increased survival from melanoma.”
This implies that the right thing for anyone with melanoma to do is to go sunbathing, rather than stay indoors. Are we here seeing the difference in how indoor lighting and outdoor lighting affect us? What other conclusion can we draw from this finding? (Should we replicate this until we are sure we are not being fooled by randomness? I believe so).
If the sun causes melanoma, we should see higher rates in Italy compared to Sweden, right?
Again, we see that what we expect is not what we find. Uveal melanoma incidence decreases as you go south in Europe. Is this because of darker eye color in southern Europe? Or are we seeing the sometimes paradoxical relationship of life to light?
The key points of these papers? The sun can decrease your risk of melanoma if you are exposed to it consistently. Does wearing sunscreen and sunglasses still make sense to you? This is the next piece of dogma worth taking a closer look at.
If the sun causes melanoma (or at least 65% of cases), then sunscreen should reduce melanoma risk, right?
The story is much more complex than that. Consider the following findings from a study in Sweden.
“Persons who used sunscreens did not have a decreased risk of malignant melanoma. Instead, a significantly elevated odds ratio (OR) for developing malignant melanoma after regular sunscreen use was found, adjusted for history of sunburns, hair color, frequency of sunbathing during the summer, and duration of each sunbathing occasion [OR = 1.8, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.1–2.9]. The OR was higher in subjects who reported that sunscreen use enabled them to spend more time sunbathing (adjusted OR = 8.7, 95% CI 1.0–75.8 for always vs. never use).”
You read that correctly — those who used sunscreen increased their risk of melanoma. The study authors conclude that those who used sunscreen spent more time in the sun. Therefore, sunscreen and sunbathing increase your risk of melanoma.
Another study concluded, “the use of sunscreens does not help prevent melanoma.”
And yet another stated:
“These results are controversial. Two case–control studies show a protective effect of sunscreen use, while three studies showed a significant risk associated with sunscreen use. However, the discordant results, the low relative risks, the lack of dose–effect relationship and the numerous biases, especially the uncertainty that exposure (sunscreen use) preceded melanoma do not suggest a causative association between sunscreen use and melanoma. Several hypotheses could partly explain these contradictory results.”
Translation: we are flummoxed by these results and are sure that no matter what we say, people will continue to argue about this. What we are sure of is that we are not sure if anyone should be using sunscreen. We should definitely figure this out as soon as possible.
Still feeling good about that goop you slather yourself with to protect yourself from something life has been effectively surviving since the dawn of time? Caveat emptor.
Yes? Then here’s another nail for the coffin of that idea.
“If melanoma and basal cell carcinoma are initiated or promoted by solar radiation other than UVB, as laboratory data suggest, then UVB sunscreens might not be effective in preventing these cancers, and sunscreen use might increase the risk of their occurrence. Alternative explanations for the rapid rise in the incidence and mortality rates of melanoma, such as changes in patterns of recreational sun exposure, are discussed. Traditional means of limiting overexposure to the sun, such as wearing of hats and adequate clothing and avoidance of prolonged sunbathing, may be more prudent than reliance on chemical sunscreens.”
Translation: the lab data suggest that this is way more complex than “the sun causes melanoma.” In fact, sunscreens may have been filtering out the most important frequency of light for life, UV-B, which produces vitamin D. There are also many factors that have changed in the last several decades that could explain this rise. Until we figure out what is actually going on, you might be better of covering up than slathering up with sunscreen.
A study in 2003, published in the prestigious “Annals of Internal Medicine” (one of “The Big Five” medical journals), examined and pooled the results of 18 different sudies on preventing melanoma with sunscreen. Here is what they found.
“No association was seen between melanoma and sunscreen use. Failure to control for confounding factors may explain previous reports of positive associations linking melanoma to sunscreen use. In addition, it may take decades to detect a protective association between melanoma and use of the newer formulations of sunscreens.”
Translation: we combed through the literature and we still cannot confirm that sunscreen prevents melanoma.
Meanwhile, melanoma rates continue to rise. How could this be in an age of plummeting sun exposure, sunglasses, and sunscreen?
Still feeling good about your melanoma-prevention habits? I choose to cover up if I am worried about burning. I choose to spend as much time outside as possible, whenever possible. I do not worry about skin cancer. I worry about heart disease, addiction, Alzheimer’s, and other kinds of cancer, because odds are that one of those will carry me off one of these days. Until that day, I will enjoy the sun.
Every part of our environment, including our modern technologies, are tools that can either help life, or hurt it. Unhealthy, modern lifestyles cause deterioration of life’s ability to assimilate light in order to create and recreate itself. The solution is to learn from nature, rather than try to out-engineer her. The latter path is well trodden by now, and it is paved with the bones of people who said, “Details do not matter.”
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