Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health 4

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Does sunlight cause cancer or protect against it?  Get the facts in Part 4 of the Benefits of Sunlight: Cancer: Cause, Protection, or Both?

Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health

M. Nathaniel Mead
Cancer: Cause, Protection, or Both?

The first reports of an association between sun exposure and skin cancer began to surface in dermatology publications in the late nineteenth century. Nevertheless, it was not until the 1930s that the U.S. Public Health Service began issuing warnings about sun-related health risks. People were cautioned to avoid the midday summer sun, cover their heads in direct sunlight, and gradually increase the time of sun exposure from an initial 5–10 minutes per day to minimize the risk of sunburn.

In the decades that followed, the skin cancer hazards of excessive sun exposure would be extensively studied and mapped. Today, the three main forms of skin cancer—melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma—are largely attributed to excessive UVR exposure. Skin cancers became the most common form of cancer worldwide, especially among groups such as white residents of Australia and New Zealand.

When atmospheric scientists first called attention to possible chemical destruction of the stratospheric ozone layer in the early 1970s, one predicted consequence of the increased UVB radiation was a rise in skin cancer rates, especially in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Latin America. To counter this threat, the WHO, the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Meteorological Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection established INTERSUN, the Global UV Project, with the express goal of reducing the burden of UVR-related disease. INTERSUN activities have included the development of an internationally recognized UV Index to help frame sun protection messages related to the daily intensity of UVR. [For more information on these activities, see “WHO Ultraviolet Radiation Website,” p. A157 this issue.]

Australia was among the first countries to spearhead large-scale sun protection programs, with the Slip-Slop-Slap initiative (short for “slip on a shirt, slop on some sun-screen, and slap on a hat”) introduced in the early 1980s. “This program and the subsequent SunSmart campaign have been highly effective in informing Australians of the risks and providing clear, practical instructions as to how to avoid excessive UVR exposure,” says Lucas. As a result of increased use of hats, sunscreen, and shade, the incidence of malignant melanoma has begun to plateau in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Northern Europe among some age groups. However, because other UVR-induced skin cancers typically take longer than melanoma to develop, their incidence rates continue to rise in most developed countries. Lucas says a gradual improvement in these rates is to be expected as well.

Whereas skin cancer is associated with too much UVR exposure, other cancers could result from too little. Living at higher latitudes increases the risk of dying from Hodgkin lymphoma, as well as breast, ovarian, colon, pancreatic, prostate, and other cancers, as compared with living at lower latitudes. A randomized clinical trial by Joan Lappe, a medical professor at Creighton University, and colleagues, published in the June 2007 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, confirmed that taking 2–4 times the daily dietary reference intake of 200–600 IU vitamin D3 and calcium resulted in a 50–77% reduction in expected incidence rates of all cancers combined over a four-year period in post-menopausal women living in Nebraska.

Moreover, although excessive sun exposure is an established risk factor for cutaneous malignant melanoma, continued high sun exposure was linked with increased survival rates in patients with early-stage melanoma in a study reported by Marianne Berwick, an epidemiology professor at the University of New Mexico, in the February 2005 Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Holick also points out that most melanomas occur on the least sun-exposed areas of the body, and occupational exposure to sunlight actually reduced melanoma risk in a study reported in the June 2003 Journal of Investigative Dermatology.



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This entry was posted on Monday, May 27th, 2024 at 12:43 pm and is filed under Articles.

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One Comment

tltandr said:

on October 11th, 2009

Sunbiophoton going through our eyes to our retina and activating our DNA to produce vitD.
By sungazing on sunrise and not exceeding 7.a.m. or by indirect Biophoton entering our eyes during daytimes, our ENDOCRIN GLAND CELLS DNA is ACTIVATED and eredicating CANCER (OF THE SKIN)

DR TAN tjiauw liat


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