By: Marc Sorenson, Sunlight Institute–
Research from the University of Sidney in Australia suggests that children under the age of six should spend at least 10 hours per week in the sunlight. This is another in a series of research studies that show that sunlight exposure is vital to the visual health of children; it profoundly reduces the risk of myopia, or short-sightedness. Without sunlight, the eye develops an oval rather than a round shape.
One of the researchers also noted that “prevention of myopia is important for future eye health as even low levels of the condition place you at higher risk of cataracts and glaucoma in adulthood.” This is an important statement, since many physicians believe that sunlight exposure leads to cataracts and other eye disorders.
This is an excellent article and belies the idea that sunlight exposure is harmful to children.
By: Dr. Marc Sorenson, Sunlight Institute–
Should children over the age of six months use sunscreen year-round, even in sunless, cloudy weather? Of course not—but that idea may make $millions for the sunscreen manufacturers.
How convenient for the Skin Cancer Foundation to state, “for adequate protection against melanoma, non-melanoma skin cancers and photo-aging, everyone over the age of six months should use sunscreen daily year-round, in any weather.” The Skin Cancer Foundation, of course, was founded by sunscreen manufacturers, which are forbidden by the FDA to claim that their products prevent melanoma. This statement by the FDA belies the claims of the Skin Cancer Foundation: “the available evidence fails to show that sunscreen use alone helps prevent skin cancer or premature skin aging. Thus, the anti-aging, skin cancer, and sun damage claims proposed by the comments [of the sunscreen industry] would be false or misleading due to lack of sufficient data in support of these claims.” Dr. Bernard Ackerman, a celebrated dermatologist, has further stated, “…the American Academy of Dermatology, the Skin Cancer Foundation and the American Cancer Society sold their seals of recommendation to manufacturers of sunscreen, the price being substantial in terms of dollars but incalculable in regard to tarnish of honor.” He continued, “…sunscreen companies pay it [the Skin Cancer Foundation] many thousands of dollars annually in the hope of gaining many millions of dollars in return.”
Sunscreens block UVB and are (supposedly) intended to decrease sun damage to the skin—damage that is said to increase the risk of melanoma. Sunscreen use has increased considerably in the past few decades. Therefore, if sunlight exposure is the cause of melanoma, there should be an accompanying decrease in melanoma. Exactly the opposite has happened. According to Kline & Company, a research group, sales of sunscreens in 1972 were $33 million; in 2008, sales were $650 million. In addition, according to the Fredonia Market Research Group Company, the sale of sunscreens used in cosmetics in 2007 was $130 million. Therefore, the total sales of sunscreens as of 2007 were $780 million. Considering that a dollar’s value is only about 20% of what it was in 1972, the adjusted 2008 sunscreen expenditures are approximately $156 million, or about 4.7 times the 1972 figure. In other words, sunscreen use has increased by about 4.7 times. Population has also grown from 210 million in 1972 to 305 million in 2008—a 50% increase. Adjusting for population growth, it can be concluded that per-capita sunscreen use has at least tripled in the time frame being considered—the figure may actually be much higher. It is counterintuitive then, to state that sunscreen use prevents melanoma.
Consider the following: Melanoma incidence, according to the Melanoma International Foundation (MIF) has increased steadily and exponentially since 1935. Sunscreen use, as just explained, has also increased. Therefore, the data on increasing sunscreen use does not indicate that sunlight exposure increases the risk of melanoma; rather, it indicates that sunscreen use may contribute to the increase in melanoma. It has been shown that an SPF 15 sunscreen will decrease sun-stimulated vitamin D production by 99.5%, and it has been suggested that by blocking only UVB light (which stimulates the production of vitamin D in skin) while leaving UVA unblocked, sunscreens ironically may lead to UVA damage of DNA, leading to melanoma.  Increasing melanoma rates, coupled with increasing use of sunscreens, lends credence to that hypothesis. Vitamin D also provides photoprotection (protection against sun damage) by facilitating DNA repair. We gain nothing by eliminating vitamin D production through sunscreen use.
So why should the Skin Cancer Foundation make such a ludicrous statement? The answer is this: follow the money.
 The Skin Cancer Foundation’s “Guide to Sunscreen” http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/sunscreen/the-skin-c…
 Proposed Rules, Federal Register # 165 2007;72: 49070.
 A Bernard Ackerman, The sun and the “epidemic” of Melanoma: Myth on Myth! 2008
 Kline & Company’s Cosmetics & Toiletries USA Annual Service (1972 and 2008 editions).
 Fredonia market research group report, 2009.
Melanoma International Foundation, 2007 Facts about melanoma. Sources: : National Cancer Institute 2007 SEER Database, American Cancer Society’s 2007 Facts and Figures, The Skin Cancer Foundation, The American Academy of Dermatology.
 Matsuoka LY, Ide L, Wortsman J, MacLaughlin JA, Holick MF. Sunscreens suppress cutaneous vitamin D3 synthesis. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 1987; 64:1165-68.
 Garland CF, Garland FC, Gorham ED. Could sunscreens increase melanoma risk? Am J Public Health 1992;82(4):614-5.
 Garland CF, Garland FC, Gorham ED. Rising trends in melanoma. An hypothesis concerning sunscreen effectiveness. Ann Epidemiol 1993 Jan;3(1):103-10.
 Mason R, et al. Photoprotection by 1_,25-dihydroxyvitamin D and analogs: Further studies on mechanisms and implications for UV-damage. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry & Molecular Biology 121 (2010) 164–168.
Evidence continues to accumulate that sunlight is necessary to normal growth and development of children’s eyes; without sunlight, myopia (nearsightedness) develops. It should be a priority for each family to assure that children leave their computers and video games behind for a few hours daily and play like normal children should–in the sunlight.
This article from India is generally a good explanation of the benefits of sunlight and vitamin D, but its most interesting point is that Indian physicians are recommending sunlight exposure for babies. Congratulations to these brave doctors!
In this article, Dr. Cannell demonstrates just how much the medical establishment’s opinions on sunlight have changed since 1931, when it was prescribing sunbathing for children. Has anyone noticed how much less melanoma there was then than now?
This is one of several reports on the lack of sunlight in Asian children leading to severe myopia and possible blindness. This “sunlight deprivation disorder” may affect 90 % of East Asian children.
Low vitamin D levels in children correlate to a higher risk of depression . Of course, we have known for some time that sunlight exposure lifts the mood almost immediately. The time has come to let our children get their vitamin D the natural way, by safe, outdoor play in the sunlight.
This article is one of several now indicating that children develop nearsightedness when they do not play outdoors. What could be more natural than safely participating in sunny activities? Could it save the sight of our children?
Poppy Brett thought she would just have to accept that her son Jago didn’t have the energy to keep up with his friends, didn’t like playing football and always seemed tired.
Their GP could find nothing wrong with him: he slept 12 hours a night and had a healthy diet. It never occurred to his mother that the factor 25 sun cream she slathered on him in the summer might be to blame for his exhaustion.
But a year ago a blood test revealed that Jago, 11, was severely deficient in vitamin D — vital for maintaining healthy bones and a well-functioning nervous system. Our bodies must have direct sunlight to produce it.
Twelve months on, after taking supplements and having more exposure to the sun, Jago is a different boy. The lethargy has gone — he loves playing in the park with his friends.
Gone, too, are the pains in his legs that would often cause him to wake in the night in agony. They had been dismissed as growing pains.
‘I never thought in a million years that his tiredness could be down to a lack of sun,’ says Poppy, 41, a charity fundraiser from Bristol. ‘When camping in Cornwall, I’d cover Jago in sunscreen the moment the sun came out.’
Poppy first went to the GP about Jago’s leg pains when he was seven, but the doctor simply showed him some stretching exercises. When this failed to have any effect, she went back to the GP twice, but the only suggestion was that he should get more sleep.
‘It was utterly frustrating trying to get anyone to take me seriously,’ says Poppy. ‘Jago looked tired all the time, but they just told me to put him to bed earlier, which was crazy as he was sleeping 12 hours a night.
‘I suggested it might be related to his dust-mite allergy, so they suggested I vacuum the house more!’
In February last year, Jago burst into tears at the side of a swimming pool because he felt so unwell. Poppy marched back to the GP and demanded a blood test.
‘I said: ‘‘Look, there must be something wrong with him. Please can you test his blood?’’ It seemed a good place to start.’ And she was right.
The results showed Jago’s vitamin D level was a quarter of what it should have been — this result was so worrying that the GP arranged for his legs to be X-rayed to check he didn’t have the bone-softening disease, rickets. Fortunately, he didn’t.
Vitamin D plays a vital role in promoting the absorption of calcium into the gut, which is key for maintaining healthy bones and normal muscle and nerve activity.
It is measured by its concentration in the blood. A count of 70 to 150 means there is a good store of it. At 50 to 70, levels are insufficient; at 50 they are deficient; and at less than 25 severely deficient. Jago’s count was just 24.
Severe deficiency can cause rickets, convulsions and heart failure in young children and adolescents, says Dr Jeremy Allgrove, consultant paediatric endocrinologist at Barts and the London Children’s Hospital. He is one of Britain’s leading experts on vitamin D deficiency.
Dr Allgrove says there is increasing evidence to show that vitamin D has an important effect on children’s immune systems, protecting against TB, asthma and other viral infections.
In adults, a deficiency may cause an increased incidence of diabetes, coronary heart disease and some forms of cancer.
Despite its importance for our health, up to half of those with white, northern European skin and up to 90 per cent of Britons with Asian or Afro-Caribbean backgrounds may be deficient, mainly because we can’t make it from sunshine in this country between October and March. The darker your skin, the harder it is to make.
But there are still no formal government guidelines on the amount children should have.
‘Unspecific’ symptoms of deficiency include lethargy, leg pain, eating issues and mood swings, but these are often missed by GPs.
Every parent has had it drummed into them to apply high-factor sun screen on their children’s delicate skin in the spring and summer, but Dr Allgrove says this is worsening the problem of vitamin D deficiency.
‘This is the one vitamin you can’t get in adequate quantities from your diet,’ he says.
‘The problem is that even low-factor sunscreens will absorb all the ultraviolet light you are exposed to that you need to make vitamin D.
‘I am not suggesting that sunscreen shouldn’t be used. But in my view its use has gone too far.’
He recommends allowing a small amount of sun exposure — apply sun cream after 15 minutes in the sunshine for pale-skinned children and up to an hour for darker-skinned children.
Lucia Decermic, 40, from West London, is another mother whose child’s vitamin D deficiency were not recognised by her GP.
She had to dose her five-year-old daughter Senka with Calpol three times a week to cope with her leg pain. Senka also had eating problems, often managing only a mouthful of cereal for breakfast.
Like Poppy, Lucia feels let down by her GP because she had to take matters into her own hands. When a locum suggested Senka had her legs X-rayed at Hammersmith Hospital, Lucia instead queued up for a blood test.
She had heard about another child with vitamin D deficiency and wondered if this might be the case with Senka.
She was right. Senka was significantly deficient in vitamin D, with a level of 49. ‘It seems ludicrous that GPs are still not fully informed about something as simple as vitamin D deficiency,’ says Lucia, who runs her own events management business.
‘It’s unacceptable to be told your daughter has growing pains with no offer of a solution. I had to resort to medicating her with painkillers and then sit helplessly listening to her scream until the pain subsided.
‘How many parents are going through this?’
Senka has been taking a vitamin D supplement for just three weeks. Remarkably, her leg pain levels have subsided and she is eating well.
Dr Allgrove says eating problems are a common symptom of vitamin D deficiency, probably because children at such a low ebb can’t face food.
He says GPs are beginning to wake up to vitamin D deficiency. Guidelines about testing and medication have recently been issued to surgeries by Barts and the Royal London Hospital. Millie Barrett of Key Nutrition, a London-based clinical nutrition consultancy, says she is seeing an increased awareness of the issue.
‘Every patient whose vitamin D status I have tested has been insufficient or deficient. These are not isolated cases,’ she says.
She advises mothers to ask their GP for a blood test or see a registered nutritional therapist, who will arrange a test for £40.
‘If one member of your family has been diagnosed with low or insufficient levels of vitamin D, it is likely the rest of the family will also be deficient because they are subject to the same influences.’
Tested or not, in Dr Allgrove’s view everyone should take vitamin D supplements.
He ADVISES 400 ius (international units in which vitamin D is measured) a day for babies, 1,000 ius a day for children and adolescents, and 1,000 to 2000 ius a day for adults.
Vitamin D supplements are vital for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, and those who cover up for religious reasons.
Dr Allgrove says it is almost impossible to take too much. When deficiency is detected, the doses prescribed are far higher: 3,000 ius for infants; 6,000 ius for children aged six months to 12 years; and 6,000 to 10,000 ius for adolescents and adults.
Treating Jago’s vitamin D deficiency has had a transforming effect on him, says Poppy.
‘Before, when we went to the park I felt as if I was pulling a tired boy along behind me who didn’t want to be there.
‘For years I just thought my son was just not a child who was full of energy and life. How wrong I was. He’s got so much buzz about him now. He is a new boy.’