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Does Too Much Sun Really Cause Melanoma?

August 05, 2008 | 126,022 views
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sunshine, sun, cancer, melanoma, skin cancer, sunscreen, suntan lotion, tanningSam Shuster, a consultant dermatologist at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, argues that sun exposure is not the major cause of malignant melanoma.

Melanoma is related more to ethnicity, and in 75 percent of cases it occurs on relatively unexposed sites, especially on the feet of Africans. Melanoma occurrence actually decreases with greater sun exposure and can be increased by sunscreens.

There is also good evidence that the reported increase in melanoma incidence is an caused by the incorrect classification of benign naevi as malignant melanomas, which would explain why melanoma mortality has changed little despite the great increase in supposed incidence.

How Vitamin D Performance Testing Can Help Optimize Your Health

A robust and growing body of research clearly shows that vitamin D is absolutely critical for good health and disease prevention. Vitamin D affects your DNA through vitamin D receptors (VDRs), which bind to specific locations of the human genome. Scientists have identified nearly 3,000 genes that are influenced by vitamin D levels, and vitamin D receptors have been found throughout the human body.

Is it any wonder then that no matter what disease or condition is investigated, vitamin D appears to play a crucial role? This is why I am so excited about the D*Action Project by GrassrootsHealth. It is showing how you can take action today on known science with a consensus of experts without waiting for institutional lethargy. It has shown how by combining the science of measurement (of vitamin D levels) with the personal choice of taking action and, the value of education about individual measures that one can truly be in charge of their own health.

In order to spread this health movement to more communities, the project needs your involvement. This was an ongoing campaign during the month of February, and will become an annual event.

To participate, simply purchase the D*Action Measurement Kit and follow the registration instructions included. (Please note that 100 percent of the proceeds from the kits go to fund the research project. I do not charge a single dime as a distributor of the test kits.)

As a participant, you agree to test your vitamin D levels twice a year during a five-year study, and share your health status to demonstrate the public health impact of this nutrient. There is a $65 fee every six months for your sponsorship of this research project, which includes a test kit to be used at home, and electronic reports on your ongoing progress. You will get a follow up email every six months reminding you "it's time for your next test and health survey."

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Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Unfortunately, in the United States, as well as many other Western countries, the sun has been unfairly demonized. Many people have been convinced that it is necessary to avoid  the sun to decrease their risk of cancer, when the converse is actually true.

And, EVEN IF increased sun exposure does not decrease your risk of melanoma specifically – the most dangerous and rare form of skin cancer -- why would anyone in their right mind want to exchange the risk of a few harmless skin cancers with that of serious life-threatening challenges like breast-, prostate- and colon cancers?

Reduced Overall Cancer Risk Outweigh Any Risk of Melanoma

In fact, other studies have confirmed that the benefits of moderate sun exposure FAR outweigh its risks. For example, people who live in sunnier, southern latitudes and have higher vitamin D levels as a result of their increased sun exposure, are less likely to die from any type of cancer than people in northern latitudes.

Optimizing your vitamin D levels can help you to prevent as many as 16 different types of cancer including pancreatic, lung, breast, ovarian, prostate, and colon cancers. And vitamin D does not just impact your cancer risk slightly. It can cut your risk by as much as 60 percent!

Its protective effect against cancer works in several ways, including: 

  • Increasing the self-destruction of mutated cells (which, if allowed to replicate, could lead to cancer)
  • Reducing the spread and reproduction of cancer cells
  • Causing cells to become differentiated (cancer cells often lack differentiation)
  • Reducing the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones, which is a step in the transition of dormant tumors turning cancerous 

Previous studies have found that more than one million people die every year from lack of sun exposure and subsequent vitamin D deficiency, so you really need to overcome your fear of the sun if you want to stay optimally healthy.

The Cumulative Benefits of Sun Exposure FAR Outweigh Your Risk of Skin Cancer

But the benefits don’t end with reduced cancer risk. Appropriate sun exposure has also been linked to:

Northern countries (with less intense sunlight and colder winters) have higher levels of heart disease than sun-filled southern countries, and more heart attacks occur in the winter months, when sunlight is scarce.

One study even discovered that low vitamin D levels more than doubled the risk of heart attack and death. That’s big!  

Past studies have also found that getting a daily dose of vitamin D boosts your natural anti-inflammatory response, which can help treat congestive heart failure.

Just how does vitamin D help your heart?

There are a number of mechanisms triggered by vitamin D production that help fight heart disease, including:

  • An increase in your body's natural anti-inflammatory cytokines
  • The suppression of vascular calcification
  • The inhibition of vascular smooth muscle growth

What May Be a Greater Risk Factor for Melanoma Than the Sun?

In 2001, the National Academy of Sciences published a comprehensive review showing that your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio was the key to preventing skin cancer development. 

If you’re like the average American, you’re likely consuming far too many omega-6 fats, and far too little omega-3.

If you want to reduce or virtually eliminate your risk of skin- and other cancers, it will be vital to radically reduce your consumption of most vegetable oils, as they are high in omega-6 fats. Just 100 years ago, the average American consumed less than one pound of these oils per year, and today that amount has exploded to 75 pounds per year.

Another Australian study showed a 40 percent reduction in melanoma for those who ate fish, which is rich in omega-3.

This is one of the many reasons why I highly recommend taking krill oil or fish oil as a safe and effective alternative to increase your intake of beneficial omega-3s, considering the fact that most fish is now heavily contaminated with high levels of mercury.

To Prevent Skin Damage You Have to Protect Against the Most Damaging Rays

Ultraviolet light from the sun comes in two main wavelengths – UVA and UVB.  It’s important for you to understand the difference between them, and your risk factors from each.

Consider UVB the ‘good guy’ that helps your skin produce vitamin D.

UVA is considered the ‘bad guy’ because it penetrates your skin more deeply and causes more free radical damage.  Not only that, but UVA rays are quite constant during ALL hours of daylight, throughout the entire year -- unlike UVB, which are low in morning and evening, and high at midday.

If you’ve ever gotten a scorching sunburn on a cloudy day, you now understand why; it’s from the deeply penetrating UVA!

Since UVA’s are inherently more damaging, AND persistently high during all daylight hours, wearing a sunscreen that doesn’t protect you from UVA is going to give you virtually no benefit and be detrimental to your overall health, while increasing your risk of melanoma since you’re more likely to stay out longer and suffer deeper damage.

Two non-toxic ingredients that scatter both UVB and the more damaging UVA rays are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. They’ve been used all over the world for over 75 years as safe sunscreens. These two natural minerals form the base of my Natural Sunscreen.

Sunscreens May Not Prevent Melanoma Either…

Although sunscreen can prevent the most common types of skin cancer -- basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas -- it does not protect against melanoma, according to research from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

They found that those who used sunscreen did not have a lower risk of melanoma, even though it has been theorized that using sunscreen to prevent sunburns in childhood might lower your risk of cancer.

Based on the evidence, researchers concluded that sunburn, in and of itself, probably does not cause melanoma, but that sunburn is an important sign of excessive sun exposure that can cause melanoma in people who are genetically susceptible because of their skin type. Since sunscreen prevents sunburn it might encourage light-skinned individuals to spend more time in the sun, possibly increasing their melanoma risk.

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