June 16

Sun and prostate cancer

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According to research published in the June 15 issue of Cancer Research sun exposure wards off prostate cancer.
Researchers evaluated men for their degree of lifetime sun exposure by using a reflectometer to measure the differences in skin pigmentation between non-sun exposed skin (under the arm) and sun-exposed skin (the forehead) in men with prostate cancer. They then compared these men to a similar group without prostate cancer. The results show that long-term sun exposure significantly reduces the odds for developing prostate cancer.
The rationale for the cancer reduction is that the skin uses sunlight to make the active version of vitamin D, which the body then—as the old saying goes—puts it where the sun don’t shine. In the prostate, for example. The active form of vitamin D is a known cancer inhibitor, and elevated levels have been shown to be protective against colon, prostate, breast and a number of other cancers—even melanoma, a malignant form of skin cancer.
Which brings us to our friends in the press who when reporting this and similar studies always add the caveat that long term sun exposure is a risk factor for a malignant form of skin cancer, melanoma. To be fair, the authors of this study added the same caveat in their conclusion.
This statement isn’t really true—we’ll save the whys for another blog. But even if it were true, I would say, so what?
According to the 2005 statistics from the American Cancer Society I have a seven times greater chance of developing prostate cancer than I do of developing melanoma. So, I should avoid doing something I enjoy—being in the sun—to avoid a disease I am 1/7th as likely to get than one I can maybe prevent by being in the sun? Gee, lemme think about that one for about a nanosecond.


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