Want to reduce your risk of Melanoma? Then get out in the sun.

Get your sunshine Vitamin DWe’ve been told for years to not go out in the sun without being slathered with sunscreen, and to reapply it regularly. Sure this prevents a painful sunburn, but it also blocks your vitamin D production. More and more research is coming out showing the cancer preventive effects of vitamin D. Unfortunately our vitamin D levels have plummeted as we’ve been scared sunless.

Vitamin D affects your biological function by influencing nearly 3,000 of your genes through vitamin D receptors. In fact, vitamin D receptors are found throughout your body, which should come as no surprise, given we humans evolved in the sun.

A research study involving 10,000 individuals showed that correcting a vitamin D deficiency can cut your risk of dying in half. Sun exposure also increases nitric oxide production which is great for  lowering blood pressure and increasing heart health and the benefits more than outweighs the risk of skin cancer.

If you’ve been avoiding the sun like the plague, you’ll be relieved to know that melanoma is not caused by sun exposure. Although the reported number of new cases of melanoma in the US has been reportedly increasing for more than 30 years, a landmark study in the British Journal of Dermatology suggests this apparent increase is a result of non-cancerous lesions being misclassified as “stage 1 melanoma.” In other words, people are being diagnosed with melanoma even when they have only a minimal, non-cancerous lesion, and these diagnoses are significantly skewing cancer statistics. The sun is nothing more than a scapegoat in this phenomenon of “increased melanoma.”

The medical journal, The Lancet, wrote“Paradoxically, outdoor workers have a decreased risk of melanoma compared with indoor workers, suggesting that chronic sunlight exposure can have a protective effect.”  Melanoma also does not predominantly appear on sun exposed skin, but can appear anyplace on your body.

Increased UV exposure can increase the risk of basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas, which are fairly benign by comparison, The risks associated with insufficient vitamin D are far greater.

Vitamin D’s protective effect against cancer works in multiple 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 fully 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.

Many actually did double harm to themselves by slathering on the sunscreen. Sunscreen typically only block the UVB rays, these are the burning rays, but it is also UVB which stimulates the production of vitamin D. By blocking the UVB rays they didn’t burn as rapidly, so they stayed in the sun longer, but the UVA rays still penetrated deep into the skin which causes skin aging, wrinkles, etc.

So, this summer, get outside, enjoy the sun, just don’t get burned.  15-30 minutes of midday sun can give you a good dose of vitamin D, then put on a sun screen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.

If you are confined to an office indoors and can’t get some mid day summer sun, then be sure to supplement with vitamin D and get your blood serum levels of vitamin D tested. It is hard to overdose on vitamin D, but a vitamin D deficiency can be deadly.

Going to enjoy some fun in the sun this weekend? If you forget your sunscreen, then just skip the shower.

This holiday weekend many of us will be heading out to the beach, lakes, mountains, or just gardening in the yard. The forecast here is for lots of sun, so lots of sunburns on that winter white skin.

So many will grab the tube of sunscreen out of the medicine chest, slather it on, and think they are safe. It could be our obsession with sunscreen which has given way to the rise in skin cancer in the past decades. Lets back up for a bit of physics and biology.

The sun’s rays consist of visible light, inferred, which we feel as heat, and Ultraviolet, which we can’t see, but these very short wavelengths can penetrate out skin. The two ranges we often hear about are UV-A and UV-B.

UV-B is the shorter of the two and is the one responsible for the sunburn we are all probably too familiar with. UV-B is also the wavelength which converts cholesterol in our skin into Vitamin D.  Most of the sunscreens were designed to block the UV-B rays to help prevent a burn (Remember UV-B like Burn)

UV-A is the longer wavelength, which can penetrate deeper into the skin, and play a major role in skin aging and wrinkling. UV-A also can cause mutations and DNA damage in the basal layers of the skin where most skin cancers begin.

Lets talk a bit about Vitamin D. There is an avalanche of research coming out on Vitamin D over the past years and it is a key ingredient in your bodies anti-cancer defenses.  Vitamin D is fat soluble and is produced by a reaction in your skin brought on by exposure to UV-B rays. Once vitamin D is produced it resides in the surface oils in your skin and takes 18 hours or more to be absorbed deeper into the skin where it can become available to the rest of your body.

So lets take a look at a couple of scenarios:

  • The common scenario for the past few decades: You go out in the sun, slather on a traditional sunscreen so you don’t get a sunburn. If you were good you reapplied it ever few hours. Keep reapplying and you could stay out in the sun all day without burning. So what was the end result? You didn’t burn, you didn’t produce much vitamin D, AND UV-A rays did lots of damage to your deeper cells and may have pushed you one notch closer to starting the cascade of events which lead to skin cancer.  Vitamin D could help prevent this, but you didn’t produce much because you kept the sun screen on which blocked the UV-B rays.
  • The other common scenario is that you didn’t put much sunscreen on, or maybe none at all, you were in the sun for a little while, started burning, and covered up or went inside (or maybe stayed out a bit longer and fried yourself.  so in this scenario, you produced a ton of vitamin D. You didn’t do near as much damage to your deeper skin from less exposure to UV-A. Then you went in and very gently took a shower to get the salt water, lake water, sweat or what ever else off. Well doing that just washed all that vitamin D down the drain. So you’ve done less damage than the first scenario, but still lacking vitamin D.
  • A better scenario:  you slather on a full spectrum sunscreen which has agents to block both UV-A and UV-B rays. So you don’t produce the vitamin D, but you don’t burn nor damage your skin long term.  
  • Well there is one common scenario: Go out have fun hiking, biking, in the boat, etc. Get some good sun, maybe a little pink, but hey, you’re out camping, so you don’t take a shower until you get home, so that vitamin D has a chanced to get into your system and offer some anti cancer protection.
  • The final scenario, which is what I try to do, is I take 5,800 iu of vitamin D per day in supplements spread out twice a day. Then I use a full spectrum sunscreen as much as I can. I try to keep a shirt on my pasty white body which hasn’t seen the sun all winter.  
The labeling laws are changing, and I’m not up on the current laws as to what they can or can’t say, but grab your tube of sunscreen, or daily face cream and see which of the following ingredients it has in it. The table below lists most of the sunscreen chemicals and which range of UV radiation they block BUT read the next two paragraphs before you run for your skin care.
There are also the physical sunblocks like zinc oxide (that white stuff the life guards used to put on their nose) and there are also powders with tinted minerals, like zinc oxide, which block the sun fairly well, but don’t look like the life guards nose.  These are great for every day used.

There are numerous chemical names for each compound, so you may see something else listed on the label. For example Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate is also known as Oxybenzone.  Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate and Octyl Methoxycinnamate are also known as Octinoxate. So it may take some research to see which chemicals are the sunscreen agents.   A good source for honest scientific skin care ingredient information is http://www.cosmeticsinfo.org  

FDA-Approved Sunscreens
Active Ingredient/UV Filter Name Range Covered
UVA1: 340-400 nm
UVA2: 320-340 nm
UVB: 290-320 nm
Chemical Absorbers:
Aminobenzoic acid (PABA) UVB
Avobenzone UVA1
Cinoxate UVB
Dioxybenzone UVB, UVA2
Ecamsule (Mexoryl SX) UVA2
Ensulizole (Phenylbenzimiazole Sulfonic Acid) UVB
Homosalate UVB
Meradimate (Menthyl Anthranilate) UVA2
Octocrylene UVB
Octinoxate (Octyl Methoxycinnamate) UVB
Octisalate ( Octyl Salicylate) UVB
Oxybenzone UVB, UVA2
Padimate O UVB
Sulisobenzone UVB, UVA2
Trolamine Salicylate UVB
Physical Filters:
Titanium Dioxide UVB, UVA2
Zinc Oxide UVB,UVA2, UVA1

So go out and enjoy the sun this long holiday weekend, just make sure you have a full spectrum sunscreen and you’ve taken some vitamin D. Or go out get fried, just resist taking a shower for a couple days.  
Just as a note, the daily skin moisturizer I use has three different sunscreens in it blocking both UV-A and UV-B rays and is rated as SPF 15. It is also free of parabens, formaldehyde releasing agents, and all other chemical preservatives.  I’ve used this when I go running and skiing and have never burned – And I take my vitamin D.

Green tea can protect your skin from UV damage and benefit your skin.

A report published online on April 27, 2011 in the Journal of Nutrition describesprotective benefits for green tea polyphenols against ultraviolet light-induced skin damage, as well as an ability to improve elasticity, density and other skin properties.
Researchers at the University of Witten-Herdecke and Heinrich Heine University in Germany assigned 60 women with light to normal ultraviolet sensitivity to receive a green tea beverage containing 1,402 milligrams per liter total catechins or a control beverage daily for twelve weeks. Before the treatment period and at six and twelve weeks, participants received a dose of irradiation to the skin from a solar simulator. Reddening, elasticity, roughness, scaling, density and water homeostasis were evaluated at these time points and blood samples were analyzed for flavonoids and other variables.
Ultraviolet-induced reddening of the skin was reduced by 16 percent after six weeks and 25 percent at 12 weeks compared to pretreatment responses among those who received green tea, indicating increased photoprotection. Skin elasticity, density, hydration, blood flow and oxygen saturation increased in those who received green tea, while roughness, volume and scaling declined. A decrease in scaling and volume and an increase in hydration were also observed in the control group; however, the degree of improvement was significantly less than that experienced by women who received green tea.
“Our green tea catechin beverage data are in accordance with the literature reporting protective effects of various polyphenols against UV-induced photo oxidation, induction of inflammation, oxidative stress, and DNA damage from different stress sources in cell cultures and animals,” the authors write. “The mechanisms underlying photoprotective effects of flavonoids in humans have not been elucidated; however, they are efficient antioxidants contributing to photoprotection in plants.”
“We demonstrated that ingestion of green tea catechins improved skin hydration, transepidermal water loss, density, and elasticity,” they observe. “These observed skin changes were probably an outcome associated with long-term consumption of green tea polyphenols and not likely a transitory response.”
What if you can’t drink several cups of green tea a day or you don’t like green tea? Well do what I do, take a high quality multivitamin which includes the beneficial green tea extract.
If you are in the metro Denver Boulder area, come by and see us at Bella Pelle Laser. We usually have these multivitamins on hand or can have them shipped directly to your house.  We are located in Broomfield and can meet all your laser hair removal needs.