Healthy Eating

Aug 13, 2006

Melanoma and Sunlight Exposure

Melanoma - Cancer and Myth
"Sunlight may be the best thing for melanoma." says William Campbell Douglass II, M.D. This past month I lost my 89-year-old friend to melanoma-stage 4 cancer. He had decided to fight the battle without the use of either "chemo or radiation." His oncologist agreed with him. He lived this past year with a quality of life unknown by many in his predicament. Charles loved tennis and played as often as he could. He lived happily until the last day of the last week of his life - the week he entered Hospice. Living independently was always his first choice and he managed that very well. Within the last month of his life he was in touch with me on a regular basis and ate a nutrition-based-regimen of high oxidant fruits, vegetables and juices. His exercise involved playing in the morning sun on the tennis court. The melanoma did not appear on the skin exposed to the sun. It was located on his chest - always covered with a shirt. He played the violin, drew pictures and enjoyed a walk to the local supermarket. He took graviola and drank mangosteen juice as well as 100 percent blueberry juice. The good news is that he was never in need of a wheel chair nor did he have to submit to the imprisonment of a nursing home. Laughter and good fellowship were part of his therapy, along with a strong faith and many friends. Fear was not a part of his vocabulary and he lived the life of a "pilot" who knew that there was a real possibility that he would not come out of this alive, but he could do everything possible to make the landing as soft as possible.
The new research on melanoma supports the idea that the vitamin D of the sun may actually increase the survival rate from melanoma. This left scientists and dermatologists scratching their heads. What else were they to do, after preaching that sunlight causes cancer and will kill you - and then finding out that they were flat out wrong. Ultraviolet light may be the major known cause of skin cancer, but not melanoma, so the claim paints an inaccurate picture. It’s important to make the distinction between melanoma and other skin cancers. Melanoma is malignant, and can spread (metastasized) to your internal organs, often leading to death. "But 90 percent of skin cancers are non-melanoma cancers. The most common forms are basal and squamous cell carcinomas, which are much less serious. They’re benign and are easily cured by simple outpatient surgery. These are the ones caused by solar radiation. Melanomas, on the other hand, are most likely caused by lack of sunlight and excessive artificial light.
As was the case with my friend, most melanoma is usually found in areas of the body where the sun don’t shine and that vitamin D may be important in preventing melanoma. This information came from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI) editorial. The authors said, "Evidence is beginning to emerge that sunlight exposure, particularly as it relates to vitamin D synthesized in the skin under the influence of solar radiation, might have a beneficial influence for certain cancers."
A close look at the Atlas of Cancer Mortality in the U.S. 1950 - 1994 reveals the amazing truth about sunlight and cancer. Since you won’t find this important document at your local newsstand, here is what it means. Among whites in the U.S., there is a striking difference in the number of cases of many types of cancer—breast, prostate, and colon for example—between the northern latitudes and the southern latitudes. The higher the latitude in which you live, the more likely you are to die of cancer. In other words, New York bad, Birmingham good. And what’s one of the major differences between New York and Birmingham? New York gets a whole lot less sunshine, but gets more cancer.
What sun exposure can do is to cause injury to the inner layer of the skin, the dermis, which, in turn, leads to wrinkling of the outer layer, the epidermis. If you’re thinking that’s what happens with age (regardless of sunlight), you’re right. But sun exposure can speed up the process, causing skin to age prematurely and to become loose and leathery. This is called solar elastosis (SE).
When researchers at the University of New Mexico investigated melanoma, they found a marked decrease in the disease in patients with solar elastosis. This information is also in the JNCI articles. In other words, more sun exposure equals less incidence of melanoma. And for those patients who did have melanoma, the subsequent mortality from the disease was approximately one-half as high among those patients with signs of SE. It might be more logical to conclude that sunlight prevents melanoma.
In light of these remarkable findings, shouldn’t people seriously reconsider the effectiveness and logic of using "protective" sun-screens? What are they protecting you from, a long and healthy life?
The major source of vitamin D is the sun. Not having enough vitamin D can result in osteoporosis, autoimmune diseases, and rheumatoid arthritis, among other things.
There is a fierce resistance to this obvious fact by the sunscreen manufacturers and the dermatologists who have a reputation (and, in some cases, a sinecure) to protect. Both groups stress sunburn as an important factor in melanoma formation since that’s all they have left as a reason to sell you sunscreen lotions. This is a very weak message because 1) Millions of people get sunburned every year but very few contract melanoma, and 2) If melanoma appears, it’s still most likely to appear in areas not exposed to the sun.
I do not recommend getting baked in the sun, but I do believe that the seniors playing tennis, well into their 90s, are living proof of the health benefits of getting this free vitamin D from the sun. I have not seen one case of skin cancer amongst the seniors playing tennis in the 17 years I have been with them. They range in age from 55 - 91 and are more likely to suffer from cartilage-loss than skin cancer. These people have been playing tennis and golf in the sun for more than 40 years. Is it any wonder that fewer people are visiting their doctors for advice and prescriptions? One doctor even wrote a book on "How Visiting Your Doctor Can Be Hazardous To Your Health." I am not against doctors, but they do need to be more involved in research and should look around at the next meeting they have to see how many of their own are suffering from disease in areas of their own specialty. Making a lot of money doesn’t cure disease, but it may fatten up the wallet and the waistline.
It is time for all good doctors to include credible sources of information in their practice and then share that with their patients. My own doctor did recommend more Omega-3 to bring up the HDL numbers in my cholesterol of 140.
Our local Wegmans store just recalled its spring water as having a higher bromate level than recommended by the FDA. Be careful! All that looks like water is not especially healthy and many of the bottled water companies get their water from the same municipal sources as that which comes through your own faucet.


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