What is Alzheimer’s disease?
By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute
Alzheimer’s disease is a plague in our modern world. It is a progressive mental deterioration that can occur in middle or old age, due to degeneration of the brain. Alzheimer’s is also the most common cause of premature senility. The United States will see a 44 percent increase in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease by 2025. First of all, the disease occurs because amyloid plaques appear in brain tissue. These plaques consist of tangles of amyloid protein (a complex protein resembling starch) in nervous tissue. They are pathological markers of the disease that are found in spaces between the brain’s nerve cells. As a result of these plaques, the brain loses its ability to function properly.
Our experience with Alzheimer’s sufferers
My wife, Vicki, and I worked with residents of an assisted-care facility for over three years. We conducted and supervised church meetings for many disabled, elderly people. Because we worked up close and personally with these residents, we understood the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s. Many of these residents could not find their way to the church meeting room without our assistance. Therefore, they obviously had the disease. Additionally, it was manifest because many of them were unable to recognize us after our being away for a day. Also, they were prone to simply get up and leave the building and be found (if lucky) wandering outside.
Does sun exposure help to reduce Alzheimer’s?
First of all, research indicates that vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids may help in removing the aforementioned plaques. Therefore, they reduce the risk or severity of AD. So, the disease may be lessened by sun exposure, since 90% of vitamin D produced in the US population is due to sun exposure.
Hence, it is no surprise that the latest research paper found high risk in low-sunlight countries. Consequently, the researchers stated: “According to sunlight data, we can conclude that countries with low average sunlight have high AD (Alzheimer’s disease) death rate.”
Are there other indications that sun exposure is associate to reduced risk?
Sun exposure directly correlates to non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC). Therefore, the latter is often used as a sun-exposure indicator. It is thus compared with various diseases to evaluate the relationship between them and sun exposure. A 2013 article, published in the journal Neurology, reveals that among people with NMSC, the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is profoundly decreased: Those with NMSC had a 79% reduction in disease risk. Stated another way, those without NMSC had about five times the risk of Alzheimer’s! Of course, this demonstrates the importance of sun exposure in reducing the risk, whether due to vitamin D production of from other photoproducts of the sun.
So, what is the bottom line? Be sure to obtain some unscreened, non-burning sun exposure and keep your marbles!
 Disease growth: U.S. will see average 44 percent increase in Alzheimer’s disease by 2025. Alzheimer’s Association 2015. https://www.alz.org/alzwa/documents/alzwa_resource_ad_fs_ad_state_growth_stats.pdf
 Champeau R. Vitamin D, omega-3 help clear amyloid plaques found in Alzheimer’s. UCLA Newsroom 2013.
 Reichrath J. The challenge resulting from positive and negative effects of sun: how much solar UV exposure is appropriate to balance between risks of vitamin D deficiency and skin cancer? Prog Biophys Mol Biol 2006;92(1):9-16
 Câmara AB, de Souza ID, Dalmolin RJS. Sunlight Incidence, Vitamin D Deficiency, and Alzheimer’s Disease. J Med Food. 2018 Mar 22 [Epub ahead of print].
 White RS, Lipton RB, Hall CB, Steinerman JR. Nonmelanoma skin cancer is associated with reduced Alzheimer disease risk. Neurology. 2013 21;80(21):1966-72.
By Marc Sorenson, EdD. Sunlight Institute…
A 2016 paper in the British Journal of Dermatology showed that NMSC (also known as common skin cancer) had a positive association with cancers such as breast cancer, lung cancer and lymphoma. Since NMSC is also associated with increased sun exposure, one might be inclined to say that these cancers are caused by such exposure. This is troubling, as many research papers have showed a reduced risk of most internal cancer with greater sun exposure. For example, breast cancer was the second type of cancer for which an inverse correlation between mortality rates and sun exposure was identified in the United States. And, when assessing sun-exposure habits in a study of 5,000 women, scientists determined that those who lived in the sunniest areas, and who also had the highest sun exposure, had a 33% reduction in breast cancer rates compared to those who had the least exposure. A subsequent study by the same group found “that a high sun exposure index was associated with reduced risk of advanced breast cancer among women with light skin pigmentation.” The reduced risk was 47%. Numerous additional studies have demonstrated a reduction of the risk breast cancer among women who are regularly exposed to the sun. A discussion or these studies will me available in the book, Embrace the Sun, which should be available before the end of the 2016.
As for lung cancer, a geographical study in China demonstrated that lung cancer mortality showed a strong inverse correlation of risk with sun exposure, with an estimated 12% fall per each 10 milliwatts per meter squared per nanometer (a measurement of sun intensity) increase in UVB irradiance (sun exposure) even if adjusted for smoking.
Now let’s consider lymphoma. The most recent research shows that there is an inverse correlation between Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) and the highest vs. lowest lifetime, childhood and adulthood factors: sun exposure, sun-lamp exposure, and sunburn.  The pooled analysis showed an odds ratio of .56, or in other words, a 44% reduced risk of contracting the disease. Two items particularly stand out in this research: (1) Sun-lamp use correlated to a reduced risk of the disease—a positive result for the much maligned tanning industry—and (2) sunburn also correlated to a reduced risk. Of course, no one would recommend sun-burning—it simply serves a surrogate measurement for a high degree of sun exposure. Sun exposure can easily be used in high quantities—without burning—by moving out of the sun when the skin begins to redden, and then coming back later, after the skin has adjusted and started to tan.
Therefore, there is an interesting dichotomy between the idea that sun exposure may contribute to the three mentioned cancers, and the fact that all of these cancers have been shown to associate with low sun exposure, and be protected against by higher sun exposure.
So what is the answer? Dr. Bill Grant has found it. When people contract NMSC, they are advised to avoid the sun, thus setting themselves up for increased cancer risk. Thanks again to Dr. Grant for his immediate solution to this dilemma.
There is more than sufficient research to show conclusively that most major cancers are prevented by plenty of sun exposure. Don’t be misled. Be sure to obtain some safe sun exposure whenever possible.
 Ransohoff KJ, Stefanick ML, Li S, et al. Association of non-melanoma skin cancer with second non-cutaneous malignancy in the Women’s Health Initiative. Br J Dermatol. 2016 May 26. [Epub ahead of print]
 Garland FC, Garland CF, Gorham ED, Young JF. Geographic variation in breast cancer mortality in the United States: a hypothesis involving exposure to solar radiation. Prev Med. 1990 Nov;19(6):614-22.
 John EM, Schwartz GG, Dreon DM, Koo J. Vitamin D and breast cancer risk: The HANES 1 epidemiologic follow-up study, 1971-1975 to 1992. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention 1999;8:399-406.
 John EM, Schwartz GG, Koo J, Wang W, Ingles SA. Sun exposure, vitamin D receptor gene polymorphisms, and breast cancer risk in a multiethnic population. Am J Epidemiol. 2007 Dec 15;166(12):1409-19.
 Chen W, Clements M, Rahman B, Zhang S, Qiao Y, Armstrong BK. Relationship between cancer mortality/incidence and ambient ultraviolet B irradiance in China. Cancer Causes Control. 2010 Oct;21(10):1701-9.
 Monnereau A, Glaser SL, Schupp CW, Ekström Smedby K, de Sanjosé S, Kane E, Melbye M, Forétova L, Maynadié M, Staines A, Becker N, Nieters et al. Exposure to UV radiation and risk of Hodgkin lymphoma: a pooled analysis. Blood 2013;122(20):3492-9.
 Grant WB. Increased risk of non-cutaneous malignancy after diagnosis of non-melanoma skin cancer may be due to sun avoidance. Br J Dermatol. 2016 Jul 15. [Epub ahead of print].
By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute
Whereas melanoma, the deadly skin cancer, is inversely associated with sunlight exposure (more sunlight exposure, less melanoma) the same is not true for NMSC, which is directly associated with sunlight exposure. It is a rarely fatal disease unless the immune system is compromised due to other diseases or anti-rejection drugs. It has been shown that NMSC associates to a lower risk of melanoma and many other cancers.
I am not suggesting that we contract NMSC in order to prevent melanoma. Correct nutritional habits can also reduce the risk of both NMSC and melanoma, and it should be remembered that in the case that someone contracts an NMSC, it can be easily removed. Melanoma, however, can be deadly. The best bet is to eat wisely and obtain plenty of regular sun exposure so that risk of melanoma is dramatically decreased.
NMSC is often used as a marker for sunlight exposure and is compared with various diseases beyond cancer to determine if sunlight exposure associates to those diseases. Dr. Bill Grant just sent me a paper showing that among people over 70 with NMSC, the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is profoundly decreased; in fact those with NMSC had a 79% reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. Or stated another way, those without NMSC had about five times the risk of the disease. Of course, this demonstrates the value of sunlight in reducing AD.
Let’s protect our minds as we age by getting plenty of non-burning sunlight! Search the Sunlight Institute site to learn more about how Alzheimer’s is influenced by sunlight and vitamin D.
 White RS, Lipton RB, Hall CB, Steinerman JR. Nonmelanoma skin cancer is associated with reduced Alzheimer disease risk. Neurology. 2013 May 21;80(21):1966-72.