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Vitamin D is not a vitamin but a hormone
May 23, 2005 11:11 AM   Subscribe

"...but trust me on the sunscreen." That memorable, always-infallible commencement advice (not from Kurt Vonnegut) takes a hit as scientists now propose that we all need to get more direct sunlight, in order to... wait for it... fight cancer!
posted by soyjoy (32 comments total)

 
In addition to sunlight, animal based foods are one of the best sources of Vitamin D. I have to run, but when I get back Ill detail all the different types of Vitamin D, how they are not all equal, and the sources for each.
posted by stbalbach at 11:29 AM on May 23, 2005


When I saw this over the weekend, I got deja vu all over again. After the study a month or so ago that found we may be mistaken about what a healthy BMI is, I'm wondering if a future of steak, hot fudge and cream pies as health foods isn't far off.

Of course, the fact remains that if you like to bake, your skin is going to look like hell eventually, at least in the case of most people.
posted by Sully6 at 11:36 AM on May 23, 2005


This reminds me of a Lewis Black bit on the dangers of sunscreen.

This morning on Good Morning America, some editor of a fashion magazine was showing off all the best suntan-in-a-bottle products reminding viewers that "the only safe tan is one out of a bottle."

I am no scientist, but come on. Go outside, it's good for you. Doesn't that just make basic sense?
posted by sdrawkcab at 11:38 AM on May 23, 2005


From the MSNBC figures USA melanoma death rates are about 1.3% of all cancer deaths.
In Oz in 2002 the equivalent contribution to cancer deaths was 11.6%.

As the ozone hole over Antarctica has in some instances grown so large as to reach southern parts of Australia and New Zealand, environmentalists have been concerned that the increase in surface UV could be significant.

We have really high profile advertizing year round advocating high grade sunscreen.

I don't think I'll be aiming to uplift my Vit D levels anytime soon. (Oh....New Zealand has the highest rate of melanoma deaths)
posted by peacay at 11:44 AM on May 23, 2005


sdrawkcab writes "I am no scientist, but come on. Go outside, it's good for you. Doesn't that just make basic sense?"

Maybe with a complete ozone layer.

So recently, the news has reported the benefits of alcohol, fat, meat, and sunshine. If you'll excuse me, I'm off to polish off another carton of Ben and Jerrys and work on penning a lard and cigarette diet plan.
posted by bibliowench at 11:45 AM on May 23, 2005


I think, as with everything, the real secret is everything in moderation. If you get no sun your are going to suffer. if you get too much sun ... suffer. No meat, no fat, no alcohol, BAD. Too much of any of these things is BAD as well.

We humans seem to be stuck in a feedback loop. binge and purge, binge and purge. NO drugs vs. addiction. The whole friken race is bipolar, no wonder we have so much trouble figuring things out.
posted by edgeways at 12:12 PM on May 23, 2005


bibliowench: If you'll excuse me, I'm off to polish off another carton of Ben and Jerrys and work on penning a lard and cigarette diet plan.

Now, if only we could get pot legalized. Mmmm, sugar encrusted, deep fried hash brownies. We'll call them "Phatties". Yeah....
posted by dejah420 at 12:19 PM on May 23, 2005


I think the amount of time you have to spend outside per day to get enough Vit D. is small. After that, sunscreen all the way. (After growing up in New Zealand and watching no less than 4 of my friends parents die from melanoma, count me as someone who slathers it on.)
posted by gaspode at 12:27 PM on May 23, 2005


and don't forget the tanorexics

I need like 5-10 minutes of sun a day for happiness, but i avoid beaches and don't ever lay out--i only burn. I totally buy this--it's a human photosynthesis thing.
posted by amberglow at 12:30 PM on May 23, 2005


I'm a strong believer that the best tan is an all-over tan.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:06 PM on May 23, 2005


I'm sure you mean an all-over tan.
posted by soyjoy at 1:39 PM on May 23, 2005


Thanks, soyjoy (whoops)!
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:00 PM on May 23, 2005


peacay: In Oz in 2002 the equivalent contribution to cancer deaths was 11.6%

Your source says different -

"There were 3,189 new cases of melanoma of skin in NSW in 2002 (1,917 male, 1,272 female). This was 11.6% of all cancers in males and 9.1% in females. Of the 425 deaths from melanoma of skin, 298 were in males (4.3% of all male cancer deaths) and 127 in females (2.3% of female cancer deaths)"

Also, you need to compare relative differences in death rates due to difference in incidence of lung cancer due to smoking or other cancers and their causes. IOW, see if you can get death rates per capita; then proportion of cancer deaths among all deaths, and then melanoma contribution.
posted by Gyan at 2:09 PM on May 23, 2005


No meat, no fat, no alcohol, BAD. Too much of any of these things is BAD as well.

While in general I agree with the moderation point, I don't know that no meat has been proven to be bad.
posted by dame at 2:12 PM on May 23, 2005


d'oh! I sit corrected thanks Gyan. That's: melanomas constitute about 10% of all newly diagnosed cancers and it's about 3.3% of all cancer deaths.
I see what you're saying about calculating relative incidences but melanoma death rates per cancer deaths ought to be a ballpark useful statistic if for example comparing Australia & USA.

Alternatively, if you were to crunch the numbers further as you suggest then it really ought to include things like relative sunshine hours per year or at least some measure of UV exposure, ozone figures and %'s of each population in high and low exposure regions if we are looking at figures that would be comparable not just in relation to cancer but also with respect to exposure, I would have thought.
posted by peacay at 2:35 PM on May 23, 2005


peacay,

US: pop ~295m; 6500 died of melanoma of skin in 2002; ratio 1 per 45,384
Aus: pop ~20mn; 425 died of melanoma of skin in 2002; ratio 1 per 47,058

Don't see a difference.
posted by Gyan at 3:49 PM on May 23, 2005


I think the amount of time you have to spend outside per day to get enough Vit D. is small.

Just 15-20 minutes, a couple times a week. Most people should be able to meet their quota while running errands over their lunch break. Or if you're going to be outside for a while, put on the sunscreen 10-15 minutes after you leave, instead of beforehand.

The scientists are pretty clear that no one should be throwing out their bottles of sunscreen, despite the panic reaction coming from the sunscreen makers' lobby. Melanoma may be one of the lesser cancer threats, but it's still comes with all the fun of cancer treatment and not everyone is fortunate enough to have a good outcome. Sunscreen still has much good to offer.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 3:56 PM on May 23, 2005


Nakedcodemonkey: Are those numbers for white people? Because it does take longer if you are browner, no? Or is the difference not significant?
posted by dame at 3:59 PM on May 23, 2005


Sure, you're not very likely to die from Skin Cancer, but I'm sure it's not very pleasant to have it.
posted by drezdn at 4:13 PM on May 23, 2005


dame: read here--it's more often undiagnosed, and more fatal.
posted by amberglow at 4:28 PM on May 23, 2005


Gyan you're right again. I should listen to my brother-in-law who is a dermatologist - we were talking about this the other week.

Melanoma doesn't particularly correlate with UV exposure or at least I think that the basal and squamous cell carcinoma rates show a much more proportional relationship to the amount of exposure.

It's the BCC's & SCC's in which we in the southerly climes tend to exacerbate versus elsewhere.
posted by peacay at 6:29 PM on May 23, 2005


geez that reads badly...but you know what I'm sayin'.
posted by peacay at 6:30 PM on May 23, 2005


From that last link ....

BCC is the most common of the three types of skin cancer. It is correlated with accumulated exposure, but is more strongly associated with the number of sunburn episodes over the course of a lifetime, particularly childhood sunburns. This is a pattern of intermittent exposure (Armstrong and Kricker 2001). BCC tumors occur on commonly exposed skin, usually on the head. Regularly highly exposed areas like the backs of the hands are rarely affected by BCC, but the occasionally sunburned regions like the trunk are more often affected. It grows invasively but is less likely to metastasize than SCC or melanoma tumors (de Gruijl 1999).

Melanoma is the least common but most deadly form of skin cancer. It grows very aggressively and metastasizes rapidly. Melanoma is not linked to accumulated ultraviolet radiation exposure. It is strongly correlated with infrequent severe sunburns, especially those during childhood. Melanoma’s association with intermittent sun exposure patterns is even stronger than that of BCC (Armstrong and Kricker 2001). Though melanoma often occurs on highly exposed parts of the body, it is distributed more widely than either SCC or BCC (English et al. 1997).
So it's not as clearcut as I've just painted it. Nevertheless, overdosing on sun is not a good idea. I grew up on the beach and I would run away from my mother trying to slap on suncream. I think that goes for most of us who were born before maybe 1980 or so. Being outside and at the beach and stripped off is a way of life for 1/2 the year here (as it is in a lot of other places I'm sure). Now, every school kid wears a hat with a flap to cover their neck, they get drowned in sunblock cream every time they walk out the door and they often get made to wear special swimming gear that covers their torsos. On one hand I'm glad that my lifestyle wasn't so restricted --- but I'll have to see in the years ahead whether I'm lucky or not.
posted by peacay at 6:59 PM on May 23, 2005


Yup--a few really bad childhood sunburns and you're an increased risk forever is what i've heard (and i've had them, believe me--blisters and all.)
posted by amberglow at 7:19 PM on May 23, 2005


Some facts about Vitamin D.

*To get 4,000 IU of D from food alone would require 3.5 ounces each of:herring, oysters, catfish plus generous amounts of butter, egg yolk, lard and 2 teaspoons of cod liver oil. Daily. Not your typical civilized diet. However the typical "native" diet contains 3,000-6,000 IUs in the diet alone, plus nearly constant time outdoors.

*Vit D is produced by UV-B light. The amount of UV-B light has to do with the angle of the sun. Only sunning between 10am and 2pm will get enough UV-B rays without burning. Sunning between the other times will require longer time in the sun, resulting in burning. UV-B light does not penetrate clouds, smog or glass.

*The amount of sunning required ranges from 20-120 minutes depending on the persons skin type and color. Face and hands are not enough, %85 of the body has to be exposed. Light skinned people 20 minutes, darker skinned people up to 120 minutes.

*Latitude will determine how much sun is required as well. Anything above 40 degrees latitude can not produce enough UV-B for 6-8 months a year even at mid-day. 30 degrees and higher is 2-6 months of the year. Much of the USA is north of 30 degrees.

*It takes 24hrs after sunning for the Vit D to enter the bloodstream. Natural oils on the skin, produced by cholesterol, are required for this conversion. Washing or bathing or a low cholesterol diet can impair this process.

*Vit D controls the amount of calcium in the blood. If a diet is deficient in calcium, it will draw calcium from the bone, weakening the bones. It will also enhance the uptake of toxic metals if there is not enough calcium and magnesium. Therefore when taking a lot of D you also have to ensure enough calcium and magnesium is present.

*Vit D in synthetic form is not the same. It is impossible to overdose from too much natural Vit D (food and sunlight). Synthetic D can be dangerous in high quantities. Natural D contains additional elements, dozens, that are not in the pure synthetic version. These elements are not all entirely understood in terms of holistic function.

*Sunlamps (such as those made by Sperti) are a sure way to control the amount of Vit D throughout the year. Tanning salons dont work however.

(ps. I mention Spirti as they are a recognized leader in the field and have specs that are trusthworthy when comparing with other brands since there are some that dont work as claimed.)
posted by stbalbach at 7:24 PM on May 23, 2005


and no matter what the stripper tells you ... there is no sex in the champagne room.
posted by LilBucner at 8:21 PM on May 23, 2005


Go outside, it's good for you.

Not necessarily. Folks suffering from Lupus must shun the sun as much as possible, as sunlight exacerbates the disease.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:05 PM on May 23, 2005


So many of the most enjoyable things in life are bad for you.

Sorry, but I believe that a day in the sun is the best anti-depressant. Be responsible and don't get deep fried. Nothing a good moisturizer won't fix.

It's all about what makes you happy. I'll take a day at the beach, sipping some cold beers, getting a good tan over not worrying about the SPF and being pasty year-round anytime.
posted by PrincessLara at 10:17 PM on May 23, 2005


Huh, thanks for the link, amberglow. I do wonder how that squares with the above assertions that the most important risk factor is burning, not culmulative exposure. I mean, I spent every summer of my childhood outside all day, often at the beach, and have never had a burn--I don't think I'm capable of being sunburned. So I wonder what the risk is.
posted by dame at 9:11 AM on May 24, 2005


As the ozone hole over Antarctica has in some instances grown so large as to reach southern parts of Australia and New Zealand, environmentalists have been concerned that the increase in surface UV could be significant.

The ozone hole seems to be shrinking - banning CFCs has reduced (but not eliminated) the problem. 2003 was a bad year, but 2004 was about 20% smaller. I'm curious to see what 2005 will bring.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 3:31 PM on May 24, 2005


Class of 2005, if I could offer you only one tip for the future, it would be: Read Metafilter.
posted by soyjoy at 1:20 PM on June 3, 2005


Live how you want and die when you do.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:37 PM on June 3, 2005


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