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Saturday, May 21, 2005

So, My Lobster Impersonation Isn't Necessarily a Bad Thing™?

Back in the 70's and early 80's, everyone wanted a tan (and George Hamilton has the leather skin to prove it.) Then, in the 80's and 90's, we were told that SPF 783 was necessary anytime you even looked out the window at the sunshine because one moment in the sun's rays will give you a deadly melanoma. But... what if the healthy reality is somewhere in between?
Scientists are excited about a vitamin again. But unlike fads that sizzled and fizzled, the evidence this time is strong and keeps growing. If it bears out, it will challenge one of medicine's most fundamental beliefs: that people need to coat themselves with sunscreen whenever they're in the sun. Doing that may actually contribute to far more cancer deaths than it prevents, some researchers think.

The vitamin is D, nicknamed the "sunshine vitamin" because the skin makes it from ultraviolet rays. Sunscreen blocks its production, but dermatologists and health agencies have long preached that such lotions are needed to prevent skin cancer. Now some scientists are questioning that advice. The reason is that vitamin D increasingly seems important for preventing and even treating many types of cancer.
Oh, I'm sure this is going to go over big with dermatologists around the country. But... what are these researchers really talking about?
So the thinking is this: Even if too much sun leads to skin cancer, which is rarely deadly, too little sun may be worse.

No one is suggesting that people fry on a beach. But many scientists believe that "safe sun" - 15 minutes or so a few times a week without sunscreen - is not only possible but helpful to health.
So... like I said... dermatologists (who have no industrial ties, right?) will embrace this common sense approach... right?
The head of Holick's department, Dr. Barbara Gilchrest, called his book an embarrassment and stripped him of his dermatology professorship, although he kept his other posts.

She also faulted his industry ties. Holick said the school has received $150,000 in grants from the Indoor Tanning Association for his research, far less than the consulting deals and grants that other scientists routinely take from drug companies.

In fact, industry has spent money attacking him. One such statement from the Sun Safety Alliance, funded in part by Coppertone and drug store chains, declared that "sunning to prevent vitamin D deficiency is like smoking to combat anxiety."

Earlier this month, the dermatology academy launched a "Don't Seek the Sun" campaign calling any advice to get sun "irresponsible." It quoted Dr. Vincent DeLeo, a Columbia University dermatologist, as saying: "Under no circumstances should anyone be misled into thinking that natural sunlight or tanning beds are better sources of vitamin D than foods or nutritional supplements."
Oh, yeah. No conflict of interest on either side there. None at all.

Let's look at this logically, for just a moment. Human beings survived for millennia in a mostly agrarian society before the invention of sun screen. So... there must be something in our anatomy that protects us (and there's also a reason why people in climates closer to the equator have darker skin- more protection). But... that's not to say that it's healthy to coat yourself with Crisco™ and intentionally cook yourself for the sake of beauty.

We need a certain amount of sunlight, not just because of Vitamin D. If they don't get enough sunlight (ie during the winter), some people suffer from S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder- winter-time depression). Even during rainy weather, some people become depressed. It's just the way we were made.

No, I'm not saying that I'm going to go out sans sunscreen. My kids will still be coated with SPF 45 if they're going to be out more than a 1/2 hour. But, I don't think I'm going to hide inside on sunny days... I might spend most of the time in the shade, but... me thinks I might try for a bit of healthy glow this summer. It's the healthy thing to do, right?

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