Monday, June 6, 2011

Reversal of Solar Exposure Risk

The admonition against exposure to sunlight has been ignored by me since it appeared some thirty or forty years ago.  Having grown up on a working farm, I knew that it was natural to accept a moderate level of sunlight.  This meant a pretty good tan while most of the body was at least protected from direct sunlight by hats and light clothing.  This also was the general experience for almost everyone since time immemorial.

The admonition truly only applied properly against excessive exposure.  A stark naked seaman who spent all the daylight hours at sea was a glowing example of excessive. 

Once we look at the urban dweller, a hugely different situation arose.  There it was easily possible to be seriously deficient even in the middle of summer.

Scientists reverse stance on sun and cancer: Now they admit sunlight can prevent skin cancer

Friday, May 27, 2011 by: Tara Green

(NaturalNews) Since the 1980s, physicians and cancer groups have regularly warned the public against the potential health dangers of direct sunlight on skin. As a result, many people have stayed out of the sunlight completely, covered their limbs even in warm weather or slathered themselves with UV protection products, all in the interest of lowering their risk of melanomas.

However, more recent findings indicate that this kind of nearly vampiric avoidance of the sun may not benefit your cancer odds after all.

A 2009 study by a group of Leeds University researchers found that higher levels of Vitamin D were linked to improved skin cancersurvival odds. Other studies have found that Vitamin D has a connection to a strong immune response in the body. In fact, Vitamin D may hasten the death of tumor cells.

Unfortunately, most people have low levels of Vitamin D, leaving them at higher risk for a host of diseases including breast cancer, prostate cancer, bowel cancer, cervical cancer, rickets and osteoporosis. (For more in-depth information on this, see this report:

"It's common for the general public to have low levels of vitamin D in many countries," said Professor Julia Newton Bishop of the Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine and author of the Leeds study. "Melanoma patients tend to avoid the sun as sunburn is known to increase the risk of melanoma. We use sunshine to make vitamin D in the skin, so melanoma patients' levels of vitamin D may be especially low."

Bishop also noted that people can get more Vitamin D through dietary sources such as fatty fish. She points out that balance is key, as extremely high levels of Vitamin D can have a negative effect on health.

The mainstream media continues to run stories every summer warning people against the sun even two years after the Leeds study. While hours of sunbathing may be risky behavior for your long-term health, receiving a moderate amount of sunlight while out gardening or walking is actually as good for you as eating a low-fat diet and engaging in regular exercise. In fact, laying off the sunscreen may help you not only absorb sunshine into your skin to help fight tumors, but also helps you avoid the chemicals in most commercial sun blockingproducts. Some studies have indicated that these chemicals can actually generate harmful free radicals in the body.
So this summer, relax, and enjoy the sunshine.

Learn more:

Yes! A dose of sun CAN protect you against skin cancer

Last updated at 8:01 AM on 24th May 2011

As a fair-haired Scot with freckles and pale skin I’m a classic case to be more at risk from melanoma. Getting quite badly sunburned on my nose years ago in Spain has pushed my risk up further.

To say I’ve been wary about the sun is an understatement - I specialise in treating patients with advanced melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer. 

I was also in Australia 30 years ago at the start of the Slip-Slop-Slap campaign to warn people to keep out of the sun, and for seven years I never went swimming without being covered in sun lotion and wearing a T-shirt.

Soak up the sun: Your skin needs vitamin D

But now I believe that rather than reducing the risk of skin cancer, following these sun-avoidance guidelines could actually raise it. That’s because we need sun on our skin to make vitamin D - ironically these campaigns may have made  millions chronically short of it and put them at risk. t rather than reducing the risk of skin cancer, following these sun-avoidance guidelines could actually raise it. 

That’s because we need sun on our skin to make vitamin D - ironically these campaigns may have made  millions chronically short of it and put them at risk. The sun’s effects might even protect against melanoma (as reported in the Mail earlier this month).

I first became interested in vitamin D and its cancer fighting potential about 15 years ago, when working in a team testing it as a treatment for breast cancer. It proved very effective, but the project was abandoned for technical reasons. 

I thought this was a mistake because it had become clear that vitamin D can target tumours in many different ways, including speeding up the death of tumour cells.

Later, while researching cancer vaccines, I found good vitamin D levels in patients triggered a stronger immune response - important because it makes the vaccine more potent. 

Then, a couple of years ago, researchers at Leeds University made the surprising discovery that a very low level of vitamin D was a major risk factor for melanoma. 

Get out in the sun: Earlier reports on the benefit of the sun

This flew in the face of the idea that it was too much sun that pushed up your melanoma risk. Lots of sun actually mean lots of vitamin D - and potentially a lower risk of melanoma.

I immediately began to test my patients’ vitamin D levels and was amazed - I’d expected maybe 30 per cent would be deficient; it was closer to 90 per cent. That changed everything for me. 

I now test all my new melanoma patients for vitamin D - if their levels are low, I give them a supplement. The big question is: does this improve their survival rates? 

We don’t know yet - we’ve only been doing it for about six months - but I think this is a sensible response to the evidence so far. As for the rest of us, we should probably spend more time in the sun. Young girls have developed rickets because their well-meaning parents slathered them in sunscreen from birth whenever they went out. 

I’m pleased that these days the official advice has changed and a few minutes in the sun each day without sunscreen is now recommended.  

But this is a long way from acknowledging how vital it is to have a healthy level of vitamin D.

Research shows that a large percentage of people in the UK are deficient in vitamin D partly because we can’t make any from the sun for about six months of the year. 

As well as checking the vitamin D levels of my patients I also check my own occasionally and take a supplement of 1000 international units about three times a week. 

Meanwhile, I’d like to see all other cancer units automatically checking their patients’ blood levels. It’s cheap and quick and I guarantee they would be amazed at just how low many were.

So how much sun exposure is enough? And if we give supplements, how much do people need?

Finding the right answers could bring big benefits for very little cost. In the meantime, my own approach has changed dramatically since those early days. If I’m playing tennis or skiing I’ll only use sun cream on my face or arms in very hot or mid-day sun.

Going slightly pink is OK (although at the first tingling sign that I’ve been too exposed, I’ll put on some block, and I always protect my nose where it was burnt).
But my message is: don’t be afraid of the sun - enjoy it!

Read more: 

Vitamin D new cancer hope

Published Wednesday 23rd September 09

New research shows higher levels of vitamin D may help improve survival for both bowel and skin cancer patients.

The results of two studies published in the British Journal of Cancer and Journal of Clinical Oncology found people with higher levels of vitamin D - at the time they were diagnosed - were more likely to survive.

In the first study researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston followed 1017 bowel cancer patients for around nine years. 

Using information about UV-B and sunlight exposure, skin type, body-mass index, and vitamin D intake from food and supplements they estimated the amount of vitamin D in patients' blood at the time of diagnosis.

The results showed that those with higher vitamin D scores after being diagnosed with cancer were 50 per cent less likely to die from the disease - compared to those with lower vitamin D scores.

Professor Kimmie Ng, study author, said: "Our study shows that levels of vitamin D after colorectal cancer diagnosis may be important for survival. We are now planning further research in patients with bowel cancer to see if vitamin D has the same effect, and to investigate how vitamin D works with molecular and genetic pathways in the cell to fight cancer."

The second study - funded by Cancer Research UK and the National Institutes of Health - found that malignant melanoma patients** with the lowest levels of vitamin D in their blood at the time they were diagnosed were 30 per cent more likely to relapse from the disease than those with the highest levels.

The researchers from Leeds also found that patients who have higher levels of vitamin D at diagnosis have thinner tumours at diagnosis.

Professor Julia Newton Bishop, study author at the Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine at the University of Leeds, said: "It's common for the general public to have low levels of vitamin D in many countries. Melanoma patients tend to avoid the sun as sunburn is known to increase the risk of melanoma. We use sunshine to make vitamin D in the skin, so melanoma patients' levels of vitamin D may be especially low.

"Our results suggest that melanoma patients may need to get vitamin D by eating fatty fish or by taking supplements to ensure they have normal levels. But we are continuing to carry out research to find out the optimum level of vitamin D. There's some evidence from other health studies that high levels of vitamin D are also harmful - so we should aim for a normal level rather than a very high one."

Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: "Both these studies support the theory that higher levels of vitamin D can improve the chance of surviving cancer. The key is to get the right balance between the amount of time spent in the sun and the levels of vitamin D needed for good health.

"But protection from burning in the sun is still vital. Cancer Research UK's SunSmart campaign advises that people with lots of moles, red hair fair skin and a family history of the disease should take extra care in the sun as they are more at risk of the most dangerous form of skin cancer Anyone who is worried about changes in their moles should go to their GP."

Notes to Editors:

Prospective study of predictors of vitamin D and survival in patients with colorectal cancer by Kimmie Ng. British Journal of Cancer Published Tuesday 8 September, 2009 Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D3 levels are associated with Breslow thickness at presentation, and survival from melanoma by Julia Newton-Bishop. Journal of Clinical Oncology Published Monday 21 September 21.00hrs (BST), 2009

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