Surveying students at the PDC

Is there a link between sunglasses and skin cancer?

Is there a link between sunglasses and skin cancer?

About 15 years ago I was studying Anatomy and Physiology. It was great to get a more detailed understanding of the workings of the human body! It was whilst studying this I got an epiphany about the relationship between sunglasses and skin cancer, and I haven’t worn sunglasses since. Please note that this is a theory and of course is subject to change, ridicule, indifference and proof of the opposite, and this is totally fine. I just thought I would offer this to you, and you can do with it as you want…..

The Anatomy and Physiology course explained to me the relationship between the light that hits the eyes and the amount of melanin that the body produces. Melanin is the stuff that makes us tan. Its function is to protect the skin against the sun, tanning you instead of burning. The interesting thing is that the body knows how much melanin to produce by the amount of light hitting your eyes! So when you walk outside on a sunny day and the sunlight hits your eyes, your body knows to start producing more melanin to protect your skin. However, when you walk outside on a sunny day wearing sunglasses, your eyes don’t register that it is a sunny day, and so it does not produce (enough) melanin to protect your skin! Upon learning that the body produces melanin related to the amount of light that hits the eyes, I immediately stopped wearing sunglasses. Of course, if you are in an extreme light situation, like snow or water, where the reflection is so intense that it can lead to blindness, sunglasses are essential to protect your eyes if you are not used to that type of light (you do not see traditional eskimos wearing sunnies, so I guess it is just what you are used to). I discovered that a lot of people are now overly sensitive to natural light, as when I tell them I haven’t worn sunglasses in years, they tell me they couldn’t do it! My eyes were sensitive in the beginning as well, but they got used to it. Now I only have a little bit of trouble in extreme glare situations. But I still do not wear sunglasses.

I may be totally off with my theory, but I feel that the more natural we live, the better it is for all aspects of our health. Sunglasses haven’t been around for very long, and the only reason they are possibly useful is in unnatural situations (eg a city with a lot of reflected light due to concrete, steel or glass) or in an environment that we are not used to (like on water or in snow). Outside of these circumstances, train your eyes to live without sunglasses. You may find your skin copes better with the sun!

©2015 Zaia; Do It Yourself Food and Health Hub, incorporating Permaculture Research Institute Sunshine Coast, Zaia Kendall discusses her theory about the link between sunglasses and skin cancer.


  1. Makes sense to me. It may apply to people who wear glasses for correcting vision to some extent, depending on which spectrum passes through the lenses I guess. Maybe it’s worth spending some time outside every day without them if possible.

  2. Sounds plausible. It also occurs to me that when the sun is extreme, a person wearing sunglasses would likely stay out in the sun longer than one who was not. The person with no sunglasses is more likely to head inside, thereby protecting their skin from overexposure to the sun.

  3. I have stopped wearing sunglasses about eight years ago. I only use them in the car. My wife never owned any (she does not drive) and I always wondered how she managed, but when I learned about the melamin eye relation 8 years ago, I stopped wearing glasses. The first weeks I had to adjust, but then it became easy.
    And Sue Rine is correct, when the sun hurts your eyes, you know you better get out of it and find some shade.
    Spring is a great time to get started!

    1. And there appears to be ongoing effects since melanin affect the synthesis of vitamin D which is essential to many processes affecting the immune system and for cancer protection.

      I also use way less sunblock these days – in fact I only use it sparingly if I will be out in the sun during its intense period and can’t avoid being exposed at that time, and I apply it on damp skin so that it goes on easily.

  4. Yes, sunblock or sunscreen is another one which has health implications. You can train your skin by slowly introducing it to sun, a little more each day. Great to get more vitamin D! You will need to moisturise though, I find coconut oil wonderful for the skin, before or after sun exposure! In the 70s before the sunscreen craze we all used to put coconut oil based products on our skin to tan… Of course, try to avoid sunburn as much as possible, hence the time buildup for sun exposure.

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