Research by Zayed University and Shaikh Khalifa Medical City hospital shows emirati university students are vitamin D deficient and depressed due to avoiding the sun.
A vision of sun-deprived individuals isn’t something you’d associate with the UAE, which experiences year-round sunshine.
However, research by Zayed University (ZU) and Shaikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC) Hospital indicates that a large segment of the population is avoiding the sun — especially in the summer — to their detriment.
After conducting a study with almost 200 students at ZU, researchers found more than a quarter of the students were severely vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D levels, shown in the blood, for those students who participated in the summer were significantly lower than those in the winter.
Though the results were conducted with a sample group that was all female, student and Emirati, the findings are representative of the UAE population as about 50 per cent is under the age of 25, principal investigator and ZU Biochemist and Microbiologist Dr Fatme Al Anouti said.
The next step is a Dh200,000 larger scale study, funded by the Emirates Foundation, that looks at vitamin D deficiency among the general population of Abu Dhabi but with a focus on Emiratis, she said.
Also part of the study is Dr Justin Thomas at ZU’s Department of Natural Science and Public Health who explored the relationship between vitamin D deficiency and depression among the female university students at ZU.
He found that the summer students in the study also showed the most depression symptoms.
Over the years more attention has focused on vitamin D’s role in mental health problems, particularly schizophrenia and mood disorders such as major depressive and seasonal affective disorder. When it comes to vitamin D deficiency and mood disorders, studies have shown there is a higher incidence among women.
Dr Thomas said several studies have described the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the Gulf Arab populations and focused on the health consequences. However “no work to date has explored the psychological consequences of vitamin D deficiency or the issue of seasonal variations in deficiency and symptom severity”.
Dr Al Anouti was told of the problem when she spoke with doctors at SKMC Hospital who noticed that patients were severely deficient in vitamin D when lab tests were run. “It’s really prevalent but no one has documented this public health problem because people think this is the country of the sun. They think it’s normal for people who live in Canada to have vitamin D deficiency.”
Emiratis are particularly at risk because traditional dress does not allow the body to be exposed, Dr Al Anouti said. Complexion is also a problem as it takes longer for darker skinned people to absorb UVB rays when exposed to the sun. UVB rays from the sun convert cholesterol in skin to vitamin D.
Dr Thomas said there was a misconception that people could get their vitamin D dose while behind windows or in the car. “You need a fair amount of exposure… people can go weeks and even months in a sun rich country without substantial sun on the skin.”
He added that factors such as high levels of obesity, relatively dark skin pigmentation and the presence of dust in the atmosphere play a role in reducing the skin’s ability to synthesise vitamin D. Cultural issues such as the desire to be light skinned is also a factor in sun avoidance. Dr Thomas said some of the female students want to be light skinned while others go to tanning salons and have a modern approach.
Majority do not seek treatment
University students are not free from depression but the majority of them do not seek treatment for a number of reasons, University of Wollongong in Dubai students counsellor Talien Huisman said.
American University of Sharjah’s director of health services Dr Lubna A. Yousuf acknowledges the link between vitamin D deficiency and depression but says the most common reason for depression is homesickness, adjusting to university life and dealing with the pressures of examinations and studies.
Saleema Al Harbi, a student at Dubai Women’s College, says weather is the main reason that students avoid the sun. “I’ve heard about this from people and newspapers and I think it’s a problem if people are depressed like this.”
Although Saleema admits that she avoids the sun because she doesn’t want to be darker and it is traditional. However, not all her friends share this view and regularly visit tanning salons. Munira Mohammad, also a DWC student, says Emirati women are not avoiding the sun and it’s not because of traditional clothing either. “We do our best to take the sunlight, especially in the morning and we sit outside and open the windows.”
Doctors recommend about 10-15 minutes of direct sun exposure between 10am and 3pm every day is needed to synthesise vitamin D.
In darker skinned individuals vitamin D is produced more slowly and longer sun exposure is needed.
Obese and older people also synthesise vitamin D more slowly and require more sunlight.
Apart from sun exposure, foods such as egg, certain fish and liver will provide your vitamin D requirements. Supplements help but sunlight is best.
Depression is associated with heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer and low bone mineral density, all illnesses thought to be linked to vitamin D deficiency.
Urbanisation, working indoors, living in tall buildings, driving tinted cars, clothing all body parts, applying sun blocking creams on face all contribute to vitamin D deficiency.
Symptoms and signs for vitamin D deficiency include muscle pain, weak bones/fractures, low energy and fatigue, lowered immunity, symptoms of depression and mood swings, and sleep irregularities.
There is evidence that people from parts of Northern Europe which get little sunshine are at greater risk of developing MS.
Dr Colleen Hayes and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, believe vitamin D3 helps to control cells known as T lymphocytes which are responsible for MS.
Dr Hayes said: “MS is currently incurable but environmental factors, such as vitamin D3, may hold the key to preventing MS and reducing its impact.”
Before antibiotics, sunlight was used to speed up the healing of wounds because it is an efficient germ killer, writes Dr Marga Boyani
All nature including humanity is solar-powered. Deprived of sunlight, man loses physical vigour and strength. Take away sunlight and all life on earth would soon perish.
Since before the time of ancient Egypt, doctors and natural healers relied on sunlight to mend wounds, treat bone diseases like rickets or lung infections like tuberculosis.
Before antibiotics, sunlight was used to speed up the healing of wounds because sunlight is an efficient germ killer.
Sunlight is man’s primary source of vitamin D, the ‘sunshine vitamin’. You get only a quarter of the vitamin D you need from your diet with the rest coming from the sun.
The body is better able to use the vitamin D it makes itself than that which it gets from the diet. Your skin makes vitamin D from casual sun exposure from as little as five to 15 minutes of sunshine per day, two to three times per week on the face and hands.
Being a fat-soluble vitamin, it is stored in your body fat. Vitamin D is perhaps the most underrated nutrient probably because it is free — no prescription required, yet it has numerous health benefits.
You need a good supply of vitamin D to help you absorb calcium from your intestines. Calcium is required in the body for strong bones and teeth.
In the West, there are more hip fractures in winter when there is no sunlight. Almost half the elderly population who have suffered a broken hip have been shown to be vitamin D deficient, yet safe sunbathing, which is simple and free, can reduce the risk.
Sunlight triggers release of the ‘feel good’ hormone serotonin, which other than controlling your sleep pattern, body temperature and sex drive, lifts your mood and helps ward off depression.
Vitamin D increases the amount of oxygen your blood can transport around the body, which in turn, will boost your energy levels, sharpen your mental faculties and give you an improved feeling of wellbeing.
Sunlight can help lower blood cholesterol levels and so is a powerful ally in the fight against heart disease. Both cholesterol and vitamin D, are derived from the same substance in the body, which is also found in the skin.
In the presence of sunlight, this substance is converted to vitamin D but in the absence of sunlight, it is converted to cholesterol, raising its levels. Sunlight can also affect blood pressure because blood pressure levels are higher during winter and lowest in the summer.
It is thought that without enough vitamin D, the body increases levels of parathyroid hormones, which causes calcium to leach from the bones and also raise blood pressure.
Taking a daily ten to 15 minutes walk in the sun not only clears your head, relieves stress and increases circulation; but it could also cut your risk of cancers according to scientists.
How does this work? The vitamin D produced in the skin by the sun’s rays improves the function of your immune system by increasing the number of white blood cells, the body’s primary defence against disease. Vitamin D also controls cell growth, slows the growth of cancer cells and stops new blood vessels from being formed, curbing the spread of the cancer.
You can reap the sun’s health benefits with as little as 20 minutes of sun exposure. Darker skinned people need longer exposure to benefit.
Sunlight exposure is the only reliable way to get vitamin D in your own body because there are only a few naturally occurring food sources of vitamin D, most of which are high in fat.
These include fatty fish and eggs. Some foods are fortified with vitamin D like cow milk, soymilk, rice milk, breakfast cereals and breakfast bars. Vitamin D can also be obtained from multi-vitamins.
Your body is not able to overdose on vitamin D from the sun, because it will self-regulate and only generate what it needs, but your skin can suffer damaging effects from too much sun.
By: Marc Sorenson–
A 2010 study from France has shown that women who were exposed to a combination of sunlight and dietary vitamin D had up to a 45 percent reduced risk of contracting breast cancer, according to Cancer Epidemiol, Biomarkers & Prevention.
The researchers noted that high dietary vitamin D by itself did not correlate to a reduced risk of breast cancer, whereas sunlight exposure alone did correlate to a lowered risk.
This research should come as no surprise, as there is miniscule vitamin D in the typical diet. For example, the typical 3½-ounce piece of farmed salmon contains about 175 International Units of vitamin D; 8 ounces of fortified milk 100 IU; and 8 ounces fortified orange juice 100 IU. The amounts typically derived from eggs, oils and margarine is negligible.
It is now believed by many experts in the vitamin D field that 4,000-5,000 IU of vitamin D supplementation is necessary for optimal health, so it can be seen that trying to optimize breast health with the paltry 400-500 IU from diet is like trying to color the ocean with a cup of tomato paste.
Conversely, 20 minutes of full-body exposure to summer sunlight at noon can produce as much as 20,000 IU, according to a 2005 Journal of Nutrition article, showing that sunlight correlates far better to lowered breast cancer risk than does dietary vitamin D.
However, most people are not actively seeking the sunlight and are not even close to producing 20,000 IU. In the French breast cancer study, it was probably the combination of both sunlight-produced vitamin D and dietary vitamin D that sufficiently increased blood levels to a threshold that triggered vitamin D’s cancer protection mechanisms, which are numerous.
Other research including a 2007 study by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, has shown that when vitamin D supplementation is more than 1,100 IU daily, there is a profound correlation to a lowered risk — from 60-77 percent — of all cancers in women.
As to sunlight, Dr. Esther John and colleagues conducted research on the sun-exposure habits of women and correlated those habits to the risk of developing breast cancer. Those women who had the greatest exposure to sunlight were 65 percent less likely to develop breast cancer.
Should we then shun the sunlight? This newest study is another in a long series of vitamin D/cancer research that has shown a striking lowering of breast cancer incidence with higher sunlight exposure and greater vitamin D levels in the blood. The sunlight is one of St. George’s greatest assets and should be embraced, not shunned.
After the Institute of Medicine made their inanely low recommendations for vitamin D supplementation — 600 IU daily for all ages — it is good to see that research belying that foolishness continues to surface.
Sunlight exposure is the most natural way to produce vitamin D and if supplements are going to be used when sunlight is not available, a minimum of 2,000-4000 IU daily is necessary to optimize blood levels for best health. Check with your physician before making changes in sunlight exposure or vitamin D intake.
Marc Sorenson is a resident of St. George. He and his wife, Vicki, founded National Institute of Fitness, in Ivins. They helped thousands of people from all over the world with fitness, weight issues and degenerative diseases. Marc Sorenson received his doctorate from Brigham Young University. He is an author, speaker and founder of the Sunlight Institute, as well as executive director of the Vitamin D Health Initiative.
Log onto vitaminddoc.com or e-mail email@example.com for more information.
By: Amanda Chan–
People who have had lifelong exposure to high levels of sunlight are less likely than people with less exposure to develop multiple sclerosis, a new study suggests.
The risk of having a preliminary symptom of multiple sclerosis decreased by 30 percent for every 1,000 kilojoules of exposure to ultraviolet light, the study said.
These levels of sun exposure were accumulated over a lifetime (you might be exposed to 6 kilojoules of UV light on a summer day), so people shouldn’t sit in the sun for extended periods of time without sunscreen and expect to lower their multiple sclerosis risk, said study researcher Dr. Robyn Lucas, a fellow at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at Australian National University.
“There is strong evidence that the risks of high doses of UV radiation in a single exposure greatly outweigh any possible benefits,” Lucas told MyHealthNewsDaily.
The benefits coming from higher vitamin D levels were already known, but because it was sun exposure that this study linked to decreased multiple sclerosis risk, it’s possible that only sun-generated vitamin D — and not that provided by food sources or vitamin D supplements — provides those benefits, Lucas said.
The findings of the study appear tomorrow (Feb. 8) in the journal Neurology.
The importance of sun exposure
Researchers looked at the sun exposure histories of 216 Australians, ages 18 to 59, who had an early sign of multiple sclerosis but were not diagnosed with the disease, as well as 395 people who did not have any MS symptoms. The participants reported how much sunlight they were typically exposed to, and the researchers also measured their skin damage from sun exposure and their melanin levels. The participants’ vitamin D levels were measured by blood tests.
Over their lifetimes, people in the study had been exposed to 500 to 6,000 kilojoules of UV light. Researchers found that those with the most skin damage from sun exposure were 60 percent less likely to have had a first sign of multiple sclerosis than people who had the least damage.
And people with the highest vitamin D levels were less likely to have a first sign of multiple sclerosis than people with the lowest vitamin D levels, the study said.
The researchers also found that multiple sclerosis was 32 percent more common in the Australian regions farthest from the equator than the regions closest to the equator — a difference they attributed to differences in sun exposure, vitamin D levels and skin type.
The secret to vitamin D’s effects
This study’s findings revealed the relationship between the first sign of multiple sclerosis, called the first demyelinating event, and sunlight, said study researcher Anne-Louise Ponsonby, an epidemiologist at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Australia.
The first demyelinating event can appear as a loss of sensation in a limb, blindness in one eye, or weakness in one limb that lasts more than 24 hours, Ponsonby said. Most people who have such an event will go on to develop multiple sclerosis in 10 years. The disease is diagnosed after a second event.
Vitamin D is known to affect immune cells, and the immune system plays a significant role in spurring multiple sclerosis, said Dr. Tom D. Thacher, an associate professor of family medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, N.Y., who was not involved with the study.
While the study showed that increased sun exposure is linked with a reduced risk of multiple sclerosis, it does not prove that vitamin D prevents the disease, said Thacher, who wrote an article on vitamin D insufficiency published last month in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
“Other factors besides vitamin D that are related to sun exposure could be responsible for protection from multiple sclerosis,” such as melanin production from getting a suntan, Thacher told MyHealthNewsDaily.
A study published last month in the journal Multiple Sclerosis found that people who had sufficient levels of vitamin D had higher levels of antibodies to the Epstein-Barr virus, which is linked to increased risk of multiple sclerosis.
“Low vitamin D may predispose people to certain viral infections,” said Dr. Ellen M. Mowry, author of that study and an assistant neurology professor at University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved with the new study. “Since some viral infections have been associated with MS risk, low vitamin D could also influence MS by this mechanism.”
No-sunshine lifestyles are putting an increasing number of Indian infants at the risk of bone deformities, seizures and poor growth, a significant new study of Vitamin-D prevalence among newborns and their mothers has shown.
Conducted by paediatricians from the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the research, for the first time, provides evidence to the government on the urgency of Vitamin-D supplements for pregnant women being covered under the national health programmes across the country. The study reveals acute Vitamin D deficiencies in exclusively breastfed babies and even greater shortages of the vitamin in their mothers.
Of the 98 healthy infants (aged 2.5 to 3.5 months) and their mothers studied for the purpose (47 enrolled in winter and 51 in summer to determine seasonal variations in Vitamin D prevalence, if any), the researchers found shockingly high combined prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency in 86.5 per cent infants and 92.6 per cent mothers. Among those with severely deficient levels, the paediatricians found hyperparathyroidism (a condition wherein the thyroid glands secrete large quantities of parathormone to maintain low calcium levels in the body) in 90.3 per cent infants and 73.1 per cent mothers. They further found evidence of radiological rickets (babies wrists were X-rayed to find if they had rickets due to low Vitamin D and calcium levels) in 30.3 per cent infants.
“The presence of hyperparathyroidism among infants and mothers with low Vitamin D levels proves low calcium levels in their bodies and is clear evidence of Vitamin D shortage. It is to make up for calcium loss that thyroid glands secrete parathormone in greater quantities resulting in a condition called hyperparathyroidism. The parathormone maintains calcium levels in the body by mobilising calcium from bones to the blood. Long-term effects of such a mobilisation include bowing of legs among children, seizures marked by cramps of hands and feet and their abnormal posturing, or even abnormally square-shaped heads,” Dr Vandana Jain, assistant professor, paediatrics, AIIMS and lead author of the study told The Tribune. She said the newly found high prevalence of Vitamin D among Indian infants and their mothers was higher than that in the US but consistent with that in Greece, the UAE and Pakistan. The deficiency of Vitamin D in India is even lower for girls, starting from adolescence, with a recent study finding 90.3 per cent schoolgirls reporting such deficiency.
“Vitamin D deficiency among infants and mothers in both summers and winters can be attributed to decreased cutaneous synthesis of Vitamin D due to higher skin pigmentation in India. But the primary reason appears to be less exposure to the sun, lack of participation in outdoor activities and excessive use of sunscreens by women, who block UV rays essential for the skin to synthesise Vitamin D,” Jain added, recommending 15 minute exposure of arms and legs to the sun from 10 am to 3 pm daily.
The most important takeaway from the report is Vitamin D supplement for pregnant and lactating women in India, as is recommended by the American and European Academies of Paediatrics. The AIIMS study argues for the Indian Association of Paediatrics to make a similar recommendation to the government, which could consider providing supplements in the national programme.
Read the article here: http://bit.ly/gGTXC6
By: Mike Swain December 17, 2010–
Braving the midday sun is not such a crazy thing to do after all – in Britain.
In fact, it could be the best time to soak up the rays so that your body gets enough vitamin D for healthy bones.
Contrary to the cover-up message in Noel Coward’s famous song, Mad Dogs and Englishmen, experts reckon that some unprotected sun exposure around noon is vital to health.
Seven leading health groups and charities recommend up to 15 minutes of bare skin exposure three times a week in summer. And midday is best.
Before 10am and after 4pm the rays are too weak in the UK even in summer to stimulate vitamin D synthesis in the skin.
But they stress that people should “never be red” at the end of the day as sunburn could lead to skin cancer. After 15 minutes it is time to go in, cover up or slap on sunscreen.
The guidance hopes to make it clear that “little and frequent” sun exposure is a good thing and that it is important to strike a balance between adequate vitamin D and avoiding skin cancer.
Professor Rona Mackie, of the British Association of Dermatologists, said: “Some of the messages about sunbathing have been a bit too negative. UK sunshine is not desperately strong.
“Exposing your face, arms and legs three times a week will do no harm.
“But your skin should not look as if it has been in the sun all day.”
And in the dark days of winter she advises keeping up vitamin D levels with “a holiday to the Canaries”.
The Front page of a British newspaper, The Telegraph, leads with this headline: Middle Class Children Suffering Rickets. It continues by saying that rickets is a 17th Century disease that is now caused by covering children in sunscreen and limiting time outside in the sunshine. Rickets is a horrible, crippling disease of children that causes malformation of bones and can totally ruin the child’s opportunity.
Dr. Nicholas Clarke, who is alarmed about the dramatic increase in the disease in just 24 months, states, “We are facing the daunting prospect of an area like Southampton, where it is high income, middle class and leafy in its surroundings, seeing increasing numbers of children with rickets, which would have been inconceivable only a year or so ago.” Every physician in the world knows that rickets is a vitamin D-deficiency disease caused by a lack of sunlight, which is the most natural source of vitamin D. The fear of developing melanoma has driven us to slather ourselves with sunscreens that block up to 99% of vitamin D production. It has also caused us to otherwise avoid the sun like the plague, which ironically, brings on a plague of rickets, other bone diseases, cancer and heart disease, as well as myriad other maladies I discuss in my book.
The advice by the Powers of Darkness to avoid sunlight is one of the biggest frauds ever perpetrated on the public, whether in England or America. We know from an impressive analysis by Dr. Robyn Lucas and colleagues that if those who would have us avoid the sunlight were totally successful, the outcome would be disastrous: for every case of death and disability prevented by sunlight avoidance, there would be 2,000 cases of death and disability (caused by bone diseases alone) due to sunlight avoidance! Of course, one of those diseases is rickets. Rickets, originally thought to be a disease of poor children who didn’t get enough sunlight due to working indoors, was thought to have been eradicated 80 years ago. It is now increasing rapidly. The blame can be placed squarely on the shoulders of those who profit from frightening us out of the sunlight. Non-burning sunlight, when available, can easily prevent or reverse this disease, and vitamin D supplements or tanning lamps can help raise vitamin D levels in pregnant mothers and their offspring-to-be. It is time to return to the sunlight! Just be sure not to burn.
 Robyn M Lucas, Anthony J McMichael, Bruce K Armstrong and Wayne T Smith. Estimating the global disease burden due to ultraviolet radiation exposure. International Journal of Epidemiology ;37(3):667-8. – See more at: http://www.sunlightinstitute.org/sunlight-avoidance-leads-rickets#sthash.ZJpIhSF5.dpuf
By Lynn Lamb —
Vitamin D is known to play a major role in the health of humans. The many functions of vitamin D include its ability to control blood pressure, its role in calcium absorption and its involvement in the development of healthy bone and teeth. More recently, it has been suggested that Vitamin D is also necessary for maintaining a healthy weight.
Vitamin D Deficiencies Research suggests that inadequate levels of vitamin D not only causes many health related problems but is associated with weight gain. University of Michigan researchers found that children having deficiencies in vitamin D accumulated fat around the waist and gained weight more rapidly than children who were not vitamin D deficient. (1). This type of fat gain has been associated with greater risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
University of Southern California and McGill University Health Center researchers found that young women with a vitamin D insufficiency were significantly heavier and had an increased body mass than young women with normal vitamin D levels. The lack of vitamin D caused fat accumulation and increased risks of future chronic diseases (2).
Dr Helen Macdonald, of Aberdeen University’s department of medicine and therapeutics, suggests that obese people are just not getting enough sunlight and that the vitamin D they do have is going into fat stores and is not accessible (3).
Insufficient vitamin D in the blood interferes with the hormone leptin, which signals to the brain when the stomach is full (3).
Sources of Vitamin D The most common source of Vitamin D comes from ultraviolet sun rays. The ultraviolet rays are absorbed through the skin. The amount of Vitamin D produced in the body is determined by absorption levels.
The sun’s ultraviolet rays are strongest closest to the equator and at high elevations. Absorption of Vitamin D decreases the further from the equator you get. Individuals with darker skin absorb less Vitamin D than those with lighter skin; younger individuals absorb more Vitamin D than older individuals. Individuals that avoid sunlight by remaining inside or by staying covered up when outside will have limited Vitamin D absorption. Age, skin color, clothing, exposure time and where you live all determine the amount of Vitamin D your body will be able to produce.
Vitamin D can also be found in some foods. It occurs naturally in fatty fish, fish liver oil and egg yolks. Salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines and tuna also contain Vitamin D. Milk and dairy products, orange juice, breakfast cereals, bread and soy products are often fortified with Vitamin D.
Vitamin D Requirements There has been controversy around the amount of Vitamin D required for healthy living. However, there is agreement that the tolerable upper level of intake is 2000 international units (IU) per day for anyone over one year (4). Health Canada suggests the adequate intake of Vitamin D for anyone under 50 years old is 200 IU, 400 IU for individuals from 51 to 70 years old and 600 IU for anyone over 70 years old (5).
Ensuring that you get the enough Vitamin D is an essential component for everyday health including maintaining a healthy weight. Enjoy the sun and make some Vitamin D today.
References 1. University of Michigan. “Low Blood Levels of Vitamin D Linked to Chubbier Kids, Faster Weight Gain.” ScienceDaily, 8 November 2010. Web. 8 November 2010. http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2010/11/101108161228.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Latest+Science+News%29&utm_content=Google+International
2. McGill University Health Centre (2008, December 11). Lack Of Vitamin D Causes Weight Gain And Stunts Growth In Girls. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 8, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081210122238.htm
3. Current TV: Exposure to sunlight may be key to weight loss. http://current.com/news/89103283_exposure-to-sunlight-may-be-key-to-weig…
4.Health Canada. Vitamin D Recommendation and Review Status. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/vitamin/vita-d-eng.php
Is the purported increase in melanoma a fraud?
In the last post, I made a case that sunlight does not cause melanoma, and that if Melanoma is increasing, as stated by the Melanoma International Foundation (MIF), it is doing so while sunlight exposure is decreasing. But suppose that the increase in melanoma is not an increase at all? Some believe that there is no proliferation of melanoma, but only a proliferation of dermatologists, and a proliferation of diagnoses of skin spots as being melanoma by some dermatologists in an attempt to make more money. An article by Harmon Leon, writing for the Huffington Post, served as a reminder of the potential for fraud among (unscrupulous) dermatologists. I strongly suggest you read that article. I am indebted to Mr. Leon for a few of the points made in this post.
I do not mean to suggest that all dermatologists are dishonest. Many of the facts that I gather are derived from research performed by dermatologists who are trying to awaken the public to the fraudulent actions of some members of their profession.
Those who profit from scare tactics regarding melanoma I call The Powers of Darkness. They have frightened us away from the sunlight, or as Dr. Michael Holick (an honest dermatologist) says, “scared the daylights out of us to scare us out of the daylight.” The consequence is widespread vitamin D deficiency that has led to millions of cases of death and disability. Dr. Arthur Rhodes, a dermatologist, wrote in a 2003 editorial for an independent dermatology newspaper that melanoma’s public message—that sunlight was the sole cause of melanoma—was causing death among patients and medical professionals alike. In it he suggested that many people were not taking care of melanomas that occurred in areas of little or no sunlight exposure; this was because they assumed that only sunlight could cause melanoma. The following are some of the examples that he gathered from his experience with this most deadly of skin cancers:
1. A dermatology trainee died of melanoma at age 28. He watched a mole change in his armpit for years, but because that area never received UV light, he assumed it was not melanoma and delayed seeking help. 2. A 40-year-old woman had a sore on the bottom of her heel and believing only sunlight caused melanoma, she had no idea that it was melanoma. She died three years later. 3. A Harvard-trained lung specialist ignored a sore on his upper back. He and his fiancée, a Harvard-trained pediatric resident, observed the change for several years without having it examined. They didn’t know that melanoma could occur in an area that never received sunlight. He died six months after diagnosis at age 29.
Here is a quote from this enlightened dermatologist: “If a medical resident can misinterpret public health messages about sun exposure and melanoma, and two Harvard-trained physicians were ignorant about the most important risk factors for developing melanoma, then the general public will tend to make the same potentially fatal mistakes. Those mistakes lead to delayed diagnosis of this potentially lethal cancer—particularly when we pound out the message that the culprit in melanoma is sun, sun, sun, and we are not sufficiently emphasizing the most important risk factors for developing melanoma.”
Dr. Rhodes states that “melanoma is a heterogeneous disease with multiple causes, arising from potential precursor moles that have little or nothing to do with sun exposure [emphasis mine], including dysplastic nevi, congenital nevi, and abnormal moles on acral surfaces and mucous membranes.”
Another celebrated dermatologist, Dr. Bernard Ackerman, wrote a meticulously documented 440 page monograph called The Sun and the “Epidemic” of Melanoma: Myth on Myth. In it he presents nearly every piece of research regarding sunlight and melanoma up until 2008, and concludes that the purported “epidemic” of sunlight-caused melanoma is a myth.
I agree with these dermatologists. The “epidemic” of melanoma is a myth, and dermatologists themselves are paying a price. Their own sunlight avoidance is causing widespread vitamin D deficiency among members of their profession. Australian dermatologists, while living in one of the sunniest areas of the world, have an average blood-vitamin D level of only 13 ng/ml—a level considered to be severely deficient. At least this group is following their own advice to avoid the sun. As you will see, not all dermatologists are following their own advice—especially those in the USA.
There are still other dermatologists who refuse to sing in the official choir of the Powers of Darkness. Writing in the British Medical Journal in 2008, Dr. Sam Shuster argued that the purported increase in melanoma is not really an increase at all, but an artifact due to non-melanoma lesions being diagnosed as melanoma. In 2009, another study by dermatologists— Dr. Nick Levell and his colleagues, including Shuster—this time published by the British Journal of Dermatology, came to a similar conclusion and called the “increase” in melanoma a “midsummer night’s dream.” They concluded, after tracking the reported increase in Melanoma in the Eastern region of the UK between 1991 and 2004, that benign lesions were being classified in increasing numbers as stage-one melanoma. No other stages of the disease increased, and the increase in mortality due to melanoma was either miniscule or non-existent. This was true even though all grades of tumors were diagnosed at first presentation. They also noted that “the distribution of the lesions reported did not correspond to the sites of lesions caused by solar exposure,”—in other words, the “cancers” were occurring on areas of the body seldom exposed to sunlight. Levell and his group also say that “the large increase in reported incidence is likely to be due to diagnostic drift which classifies benign lesions as stage 1 melanoma.”
They further stated that “These findings inevitably challenge the validity of epidemiology studies linking increasing melanoma incidence with UV radiation, and suggest the need for a search for other ways in which the disease may be caused.”
Dr. Ackerman agreed. In his meticulously documented monograph, he notes that “researchers have created an epidemic of melanoma when, in fact, the only change has been an “epidemic” in diagnoses of melanoma.”
Notwithstanding the research presented by these dermatologists, the American Academy of Dermatology (AADA) and other melanoma organizations continue to spread misinformation regarding the disease. Dr. William James, president of the AAD has said that melanoma has become the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old, testifying to that statement before the FDA. Yet, he did not mention data from the National Cancer Institute indicating that death due to melanoma has decreased by 50% among women of ages 20-49 since 1975. That means young women have less than one chance in 100,000 of dying from melanoma, which does not even place it in the top 15 causes of cancer death. And, the American Cancer Society states that “since 2000 melanoma has been decreasing rapidly in whites younger than 50, by 3% per year in men since 1991 and by 2.3% per year since 1995 in women.” We might ask why these figures are not included in the statements by dermatologists regarding the “epidemic” of melanoma. Could it be because of a cozy financial relationship with pharmaceutical companies that produce sunscreen?
Harmon Leon gave another reason to question the “epidemic” of melanoma: The USA has 4.5% of the world’s population, yet has 52% of the world’s melanoma. The American Cancer Society estimates 68,720 new melanomas in the US during 2009, whereas the World Health Organization estimates 132,000 new cases yearly worldwide. Something is very strange here. It certainly seems that the exceptionally high melanoma figures in the USA might be doctored to produce sunscreen sales, dermatology visits and the removal of benign leisions. If you want to read about how this is done, click on this link. http://www.cnbc.com/id/27087326 In addition, Dr. Ackerman points out the following in his monograph:
1. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the Skin Cancer Foundation and the American Cancer Society sold their seals of recognition to manufacturers of sunscreens, based on research conducted solely by the sunscreen industry. The price, he says, was “substantial in terms of dollars but incalculable in terms of honor.” For instance, for an application of $10,000 and an annual fee of 5,000, sunscreen manufacturers may boast approval of their products in the form of the “Seal of Recognition” of the American Academy of Dermatology. They then display this seal on the front of their tubes. The American Cancer Society allows its logo to be placed on tubes of Neutrogena sunscreens in exchange for $300,000 annually. 2. In 2007, the year in which the Seal of Recognition program for the AAD was implemented, the past president of the board, who chaired the Seal program, and half the members of the board had financial ties to companies that manufacture sunscreen. And in 2008, all four new members of the board had those ties. 3. Darrell Rigel, a former president of the AAD, affirmed how important it was to avoid the sun while he, himself, was on vacation in Hawaii. 4. The AAD ran announcements for and updates on their scientific meetings, stating that they took place in “Sunny San Diego” and “Sunny San Antonio.” [Aren’t they supposed to avoid the sunlight?]
We now have two possibilities (see parts 1 and 2 of this post). (1.) Either melanoma has increased exponentially while sunlight exposure dramatically decreased or (2.) There has been no increase in melanoma; the purported increase is nothing more than an increase in the number of harmless skin spots that are being diagnosed as melanoma by an increasing number of dermatologists. In either case, the idea that regular, non-burning sunlight exposure is the cause of melanoma is a fraud—an idea promulgated by dermatological academies, sunscreen manufacturers and melanoma foundations driven by the desire for profit.
 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/harmon-leon/is-profit-behind-dermatol_b_64…  Rhodes, A. Melanoma’s Public Message. Skin & Allergy News 2003;34 (4):1-4  Ackerman, B. The Sun and the “Epidemic” of Melanoma: Myth on Myth. Ardor Scribendi, New York 2008.  D. Czarnecki, C. J. Meehan and F. Bruce. The vitamin D status of Australian dermatologists. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology 2009;34, 624–25.  Shuster, S. Is sun exposure a major cause of melanoma? No. BMJ 2008;337:a764  N.J. Levell, C.C. Beattie, S. Shuster and D.C. Greenberg. Melanoma epidemic: a midsummer night’s dream? British J Dermatol 2009;161:630–34  http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/american-academy-of-dermatology-…  Age-adjusted mortality rates by Cancer site, Ages 20-49, White, Female 1975-2007. National Center for Health Statistics, Center for Disease Control, April 10, 2010. National Cancer institute.  http://caonline.amcancersoc.org/cgi/content/full/59/4/225/TBL6  http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb4393/is_3_39/ai_n29418761/  American Cancer Society Cancer reference Information 2009. http://nccu.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_1X_What_are_the_key_s…  http://www.who.int/uv/faq/skincancer/en/index1.html