My blog post about quitting the use of sunblock produced a large number of emails with questions, comments, and concerns. Rather than keeping this correspondence private, I’ve decided to post them here. Maybe you had a question you didn’t ask that might be answered through some of these conversations.
Below is one such email I’ve received since publishing my original article. My response follows.
Received July 28th, 2010 5:20 pm:
I suggest using sunblock, take supplemental vitamin D, and take your statin if indicated.
I also suggest to review the evidence carefully.
My response: Thank you for taking time to write with your suggestions. After decades of study and work in the health field, I stand in firm opposition to most of what passes as health information and advice. I am saddened that so many people believe without question that drug makers are working on their behalf. This dismay also applies to most doctors, and certainly the FDA.
Regarding melanoma, there is no evidence that any form of UVB blocker reduces the incidence of skin cancer. The evidence demonstrates repeatedly that excess sunlight exposure (severe burning) is more likely a cause of melanoma. Excess of anything is harmful. I am not suggesting that people remain in the sun for long hours or that they get sunburned. People who are overly sensitive to the sun should stay out of it, not slather on a lotion laden with potentially toxic chemicals.
Regarding heart disease, there is absolutely no clinical evidence that cholesterol causes any disease. In fact, low cholesterol levels are far more injurious. Cholesterol measurements are akin to a gauge. It reflects when an underlying problem exists – one that pushes cholesterol levels up. Merely using a drug to lower cholesterol is similar to covering the gauge – ignoring the underlying cause. As inflammatory processes progress, plaque can be deposited in vessels – and the plaque contains cholesterol. While that may be true, it seems unwise to use a drug to artificially lower levels. There is no evidence that using drugs to lower cholesterol reduces heart disease. In fact, some research suggests just the opposite.
Every hormone in our body is derived on some level from cholesterol. Lower levels usually result in symptoms – some serious and even deadly. The side-effect profiles of statins are onerous.
Finally, on this topic, it is irrational to believe that the only method for lowering cholesterol is by taking a hormone-blocking drug.
Regarding stroke, I use the same arguments. Stroke is in no way directly related to high levels of cholesterol. Again, if cholesterol levels are high, a doctor should determine why – and then do something to correct the underlying problem. However, that would take time – something that doctors have very little of. It is far easier to scribble an order and watch the numbers than to actually search for a cause.
Topical sunscreens are dangerous. First, they impart an unrealistic belief of safety. Users are more inclined to stay out in the sun longer. Seciond, there is a large body of evidence that exposing chemicals to UV radiation converts them to free radicals, which are then absorbed through the skin. This gives rise to a need for antioxidants – another sale. Without the antioxidant, the person can easily experience widespread inflammatory processes, which result in elevated cholesterol. Sun blockers may actually be an underlying cause of elevated cholesterol.
I find an extremely tiny reason for the use of statins – and that is in people with familial hypercholesteremia.
Familial hypercholesterolemia is a condition passed down through families in which a person has high levels of “bad” cholesterol (low density lipoprotein, or LDL) beginning at birth. The condition can cause heart attacks at an early age – caused by a gene defect on chromosome 19. The underlying process is genetic and cannot be modified without drugs. The incidence of this condition is less than 1% of the population.
Statins are dramatically over-prescribed. Approximately 99 of every 100 people using statins don’t need them. It is irrational to accept an order from a doctor without evidence that the drug is actually necessary because of a serious condition. Prescribing statins because it is easy and popular is unwise.
I have spent decades reviewing the evidence very carefully. I find that my positions are supported by it. I would appreciate any evidential direction you can provide that specifically contradicts what I have written. I find that most people are happy to move through life with their beliefs – including government officials, doctors, and consumers. Sadly, our beliefs are often at odds with fact and truth.
I agree with you that people should take supplemental vitamin D. However, I should add that they SHOULD NOT have to do so. Fear of the sun, sun blockers, and statins work together to force our natural vitamin D levels down. Healthy exposure to sunlight and living a healthy, drug-free life would make supplements unnecessary.
Larry J. Frieders, RPh