So You're a Sun Worshipper But Worry About Skin Cancer ... Here's What You Need to Know
Eighty years ago, when sun exposure was first associated with skin cancer, popular culture was exalting tanning by emphasizing that a “fine brown color suggests health and good times and is a pleasant thing to see."
We know that sun exposure can be deadly and today’s public awareness campaigns strongly focus on sun avoidance to prevent skin cancer. But we also know that sunlight is important to our health and plays a role in many biological processes in our bodies.
In fact, some physicians and scientists are taking a closer look at sunlight to expose the lesser known benefits of ultraviolet (UV) light.
What is UV Light?
When we are talking about the dangerous component of sunlight, we are really talking UV light. UV light is ionizing radiation, meaning that it frees electrons from atoms or molecules, causing chemical reactions. UV light is divided into three categories listed in order of increasing energy: UVA, UVB, UVC.
UVC is the most harmful, but the ozone layer and other components of the atmosphere filter all of it out before it reaches us. That’s also the case for a large percentage of UVB light. But nearly all UVA light reaches the Earth’s surface.
Both latitude and season play large factors in our individual exposure to UV radiation. Countries farthest from the equator during winter months receive the least amount of UV radiation, while equatorial countries receive the most.
UV Light Causes Chemical Reactions in the Body
Unlike visible light, the energy from UV radiation can be absorbed by molecules in our body, causing chemical reactions. When the energy from UV radiation is absorbed by DNA, it can cause reactions that lead to genetic mutations. Some of these mutations can lead to the development of skin cancer, which is the most common cancer in the U.S. Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma (one of the deadliest cancers) are all associated with UV light exposure.
However, not all chemical reactions that UV light induces are harmful. In fact, some of them are beneficial. For instance, we can get vitamin D from eating certain plants and animals, but a main source of vitamin D comes from exposure to UV radiation.
Vitamin D is critical to maintaining bone density by increasing calcium absorption in the gut. Chronically low levels of vitamin D can lead to osteoporosis. Apart from its effects on bone, vitamin D has also been shown to improve balance and muscle strength in the elderly, which decreases the number of falls leading to fracture.
UV light induces the body to synthesize other molecules as well, including opioid-like molecules thought to cause a tanning “high."
UV Decreases Cancer Mortality
Research suggests that the risk of developing lung, prostate, breast, colorectal and pancreatic cancer may be decreased by sun exposure. This protective effect against cancer is most pronounced in sunny countries. While smaller studies of colorectal and prostate cancer have conflicted with this finding, many studies support a beneficial relationship between sun exposure and internal cancers and it has been suggested that the risks associated with sun exposure may be outweighed by its ability to prevent certain types of internal cancers.
Sunlight may also improve cancer outcomes. The prognosis for patients diagnosed in summer and fall is better than those diagnosed in winter and total sun exposure prior to diagnosis is a predictor of survival.
Given the relationship between sun exposure and vitamin D production, it was initially thought that vitamin D was the underlying cause for improved cancer outcomes. Unfortunately, data to support this are still lacking. Initial trials of vitamin D supplementation have failed to demonstrate a benefit on cancer prevention, which has led researchers to believe that this benefit is from the effects of UV radiation.
UV Light Decreases Blood Pressure and Inflammation
UV exposure positively affects blood pressure as well. People living in countries in higher latitudes with less UV exposure have higher blood pressures at baseline than countries receiving more sunlight. This effect is also seasonal, as more UV exposure in summer results in lower blood pressure.
And clinical trials have proven UVB radiation effectively treats patients with mild hypertension. It was thought that vitamin D was the cause for decreased blood pressure, but follow-up trials proved this effect was due to UVB exposure alone.
Some chemical reactions caused by UV light are known to have anti-inflammatory effects in the skin. Immune cells living in the skin can stop functioning, migrate out of the skin or undergo cell death following exposure to UV radiation. Due to its anti-inflammatory effects, UV light can be used to effectively treat inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.
Protection Against Autoimmune Conditions
On a larger scale, certain autoimmune conditions are more common in countries with less UV exposure. For instance, there is a higher prevalence of multiple sclerosis (MS) in Scandinavian countries.
In MS, immune cells attack the insulation around nerve cells in the brain, ultimately leading to nerve damage. While lack of vitamin D is a leading hypothesis for how MS develops, studies have also shown that lack of sun exposure may be an independent risk factor for nerve damage.
Of Course, Sunlight Has a Dark Side
In addition to skin cancer, UV radiation also causes photoaging. UVA radiation penetrates deep into the skin, destroying collagen, which leads to wrinkles and skin thinning. Also, some autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, flare in response to UV radiation. UV radiation can also affect the eye, causing cataracts.
So, how can you maximize the benefits of sun exposure while minimizing your risk of skin cancer and aging? The key is to practice safe sun habits, which means using sunscreen and avoiding sunburns. This will decrease photoaging and more importantly, your risk of skin cancer. Also, vitamin D is most effectively synthesized at UV radiation doses below those causing sunburn.
Several factors, including your skin type, latitude, longitude and weather, play into your overall UV exposure. This means different amounts of time in the sun for different people. People living in California may need only brief sun exposure on a cloudless day for adequate vitamin D production. This differs for places like Boston, where there aren’t adequate amounts of UV radiation from November to February. Skin type becomes important because melanin, which gives skin its pigment, effectively blocks UV radiation. This means darker-skinned people need more UV exposure for adequate vitamin D production than lighter-skinned people.
There are online tools that let you calculate how much time you should spend in the sun to achieve adequate levels of vitamin D without causing sunburn. If you think you aren’t getting enough sun exposure or you live somewhere with long winters, check with your doctor to see if you are vitamin D deficient.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
In the coming days, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to use its power to roll back yet another Obama-era environmental protection meant to curb air pollution and slow the climate crisis.
- Permian Basin Methane Emissions Found to Be More Than 2x ... ›
- Oil and Gas Operations Release 60 Percent More Methane than ... ›
- 'Extraordinarily Harmful' Trump Rule Would Gut Restrictions on ... ›
- Exxon Now Wants to Write the Rules for Regulating Methane ... ›
By Alex Kirby
The temperature of the Arctic matters to the entire world: it helps to keep the global climate fairly cool. Scientists now say that by 2035 there could be an end to Arctic sea ice.
Melt Ponds Crucial<p>"The prospect of loss of sea ice by 2035 should really be focusing all our minds on achieving a low-carbon world as soon as humanly feasible."</p><p><a href="http://www.reading.ac.uk/search/search-staff-details.aspx?id=10813" target="_blank">Dr. David Schroeder from the University of Reading</a>, UK, who co-led the implementation of the melt pond scheme in the climate model, says, "This shows just how important sea ice processes like melt ponds are in the Arctic, and why it is crucial that they are incorporated into climate models."</p><p>The extent of the areas <a href="https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/seaice/characteristics/formation.html" target="_blank">sea ice</a> covers varies between summer and winter. If more solar energy is absorbed at the surface, and temperatures rise further, a cycle of warming and melting occurs during summer months.</p><p>When the ice forms, the ocean water beneath becomes saltier and denser than the surrounding ocean. Saltier water sinks and moves along the ocean bottom towards the equator, while warm water from mid-depths to the surface travels from the equator towards the poles.</p><p>Scientists refer to this process as the ocean's global "conveyor-belt." Changes to the volume of sea ice can disrupt normal ocean circulation, with consequences for global climate. </p>
- Strongest, Oldest Arctic Sea Ice Breaks Up for First Time on Record ... ›
- Arctic Sea Ice Levels Hit Record Low After Unusually Warm January ... ›
- Why California Droughts Could Increase Due to Arctic Sea Ice Loss ... ›
Putin's Daughter Among Vaccinated<p>The Russian leader also said that one of his daughters has already been inoculated and is feeling well.</p><p>"One of my daughters got vaccinated, so in this sense, she took part in the testing," Putin said.</p><p>After the first vaccine shot, his daughter experienced a slight fever, 38 degrees Celsius (100.4°F). Her temperature came down to just slightly above normal the next day. </p><p>"After the second shot, she had a slight fever again, and then everything was fine. She is feeling well and has a high antibody count," Putin said. </p><p>He didn't specify which of his two daughters, Maria or Katerina, received the vaccine.</p><p>Russian health authorities have said that medical workers, teachers and other risk groups will be the first to receive shots of the vaccine.</p>
Years of Work Reduced to Weeks<p>Russia is the first country to register a COVID-19 vaccine. As <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/germany-coronavirus-vaccine-may-only-be-available-in-mid-2021/a-54362065" target="_blank">countries worldwide race to produce the first vaccine</a>, health experts warn that speed and national pride could compromise safety.</p><p>Scientists in Russia and abroad have questioned Moscow's decision to register the vaccine before Phase 3 trials that normally last for months and involve thousands of people, but Putin emphasized that the vaccine underwent the necessary trials and that vaccination will be voluntary.</p><p>Russian officials have said that large-scale production of the vaccine will begin in September, and mass vaccination may start as early as October.</p><p>Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, has <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippines-duterte-volunteers-to-be-putins-russian-coronavirus-vaccine-guinea-pig/a-54523030" target="_blank">lauded Russia's efforts in developing the vaccine</a> and said that the Philippines is ready to work with Moscow on vaccine trials, supply and production. Duterte volunteered to "be the first they can experiment on."</p><p>"I will tell President Putin that I have huge trust in your studies in combating COVID and I believe that the vaccine that you have produced is really good for humanity," Duterte said, adding that he thinks Russia's vaccine will be ready for the Philippines by December.</p>
- Pfizer Coronavirus Vaccine Enters Phase 2 and 3 Clinical Trials ... ›
- Trump Administration Buys up Nearly All the World's Supply of ... ›
- First Trial of Moderna's Coronavirus Vaccine Produces Immune ... ›
By Arkilaus Kladit
Map of the Knasaimos traditional lands.
- New Player Begins Clearing Rainforest for World's Largest Palm Oil ... ›
- Indonesia Forest-Clearing Ban Criticized as 'Government Propaganda' ›
- Forest Loss in Papua New Guinea Increases Domestic Violence ... ›
By Farah Aqel
Ruminating<p>According to the late Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, a professor of psychology at Yale University, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5796420/" target="_blank">ruminating</a> involves replaying a problem over and over in your mind. We ruminate by obsessing over our thoughts and thinking repetitively about various aspects of a past situation.</p><p>It usually involves regret, self-loathing and self-blaming. Rumination is associated with the development of depression, anxiety and eating disorders. </p><p>People prone to such patterns of thought may, for example, overanalyze every single detail of a relationship that breaks up. They often blame themselves for what has happened and are overcome with regret, with typical thoughts being: </p><p>- I should have been more patient and more supportive. </p><p>- I have lost the most perfect partner ever. </p><p>- No one will love me again.</p>
Worrying<p>Worrying is wanting to predict the future. It involves negative thoughts about things that might and might not happen.</p><p>- They'll not like me in the interview; they'll not give me the job. </p><p>- I haven't heard back from other employers. How long will I be unemployed?</p><p>These thoughts are energy-draining and distressing. They could happen to anyone under stress. But when you reach the point where your thoughts and worrying are preventing you from doing what you want to do — from living your life to the fullest — then you should take action.</p>
Catch Yourself Overthinking<p>Reuben Berger, a psychotherapist at the university hospital in the western German city of Bonn, recommends several practical steps that you could employ in your daily routine when you catch yourself worrying or ruminating.</p><p>One effective remedy, says Berger, is the <a href="https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uf9938" target="_blank">thought-stopping technique.</a></p><p>"When the negative thoughts come or ruminations start, you say to yourself: 'Stop!,'" he says, adding that it is more effective when you actually say the word out loud.</p><p>He even recommends having a rubber band around your wrist to ping against yourself while saying the word. Adding a visual component by imagining a stop sign also makes the technique more powerful, he says.</p><p>The main idea here is conditioning yourself to stop the loop of worrying (making future predictions) or rumination (obsessing over past events).</p><p>Berger says the technique could take up to two weeks to take effect and that it needs to be practiced every day. "Consistency is very important," he says. </p>
Thoughts Are Just Thoughts<p>Another way of dealing with negative thoughts often used in modern therapy is realizing that thoughts aren't facts, says Berger.</p><p>He says it is important when we think something to ask: Is that real? Did that really happen? What is the worst thing that could happen?</p><p>Flight anxiety is one example where untrue thoughts are accepted as facts. Although air travel is the safest way to get around, people suffering from fear of flying accept their thoughts and fears as reality, then act upon them by refusing to fly.</p>
Mindfulness<p>Berger also recommends the use of mindfulness techniques, in which attention is paid to experiences in the moment without judging them, as a way of reducing worrying.</p><p>"Mindfulness helps you to distance yourself from your thoughts and to be more present in the moment," he says.</p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3432145/#R2" target="_blank">Several studies</a> have shown that mindfulness has a positive impact on reducing stress-related behaviors such as rumination and worrying, as focusing on the moment makes anxiety about other problems impossible.</p><p>Mindfulness can be practiced during routine activities by paying attention to your body and your surroundings. For instance, when you leave for work in the morning, you can focus on sensing the breeze, listen attentively to birds, feel the gravel under your feet and monitor your breath. </p>
Trick Your Brain Into Happiness<p>People plagued by obsessive thoughts do not always choose healthy ways like mindfulness to distract from them, however.</p><p> Dr. Edward Selby, a psychologist at Florida state university, has shown in a study that people try to avoid rumination by engaging in a range of uncontrolled behaviors, such as binge eating and substance abuse.</p><p>But he says that a much better way to overcome such distress is by distraction and shifting attention away from problems that are obsessing us.</p><p>There are many activities that can be used to distract from rumination, he says, and people should choose the one that works best for them. Here are some examples:</p><p>- Listen to music</p><p>- Read a book</p><p>- Take a hot shower</p><p>- Dance or exercise </p><p>- Talk to a friend (not about the problem)</p><p>- Watch a movie</p><p>- Mindfulness meditation</p>
Changing the Perception of Events<p>The way people perceive a situation largely influences their emotions and behavior. It is not the situation itself that determines how they feel, but rather the way they interpret it.</p><p>Reframing negative thoughts can lead to positive emotions and, subsequently, healthier behaviors — including a reduction in damaging overthinking and worrying.</p><p>Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is currently a gold standard in psychotherapy. CBT aims to change the way people think and act. It largely involves challenging unhelpful beliefs or attitudes such as overgeneralization — thinking "I always fail at public speaking" when you have had one bad experience in front of an audience, for example — or "catastrophization," i.e., imagining the worst possible outcome to a situation. </p><p>A psychotherapist can teach people how to implement such thought-changing techniques into their lives. Techniques vary depending on their issues and goals.</p>
Solutions Are at Hand<p>Try to find ways of avoiding worrying, rumination and overthinking that make you feel most comfortable.</p><p>Incorporating any routine in your life when you're stressed isn't an easy task, but you can do it! If you feel overwhelmed, you can always seek professional help. </p><p><em>If you are suffering from serious emotional strain or suicidal thoughts, do not hesitate to seek professional help. You can find information on where to find such help, no matter where you live in the world, <a href="https://www.befrienders.org/" target="_blank">at this website.</a></em></p>
- Should 'Eco-Anxiety' Be Classified as a Mental Illness? - EcoWatch ›
- Online Therapy Is Showing How to Expand Mental Health Services ... ›
- How to Stay Healthy at Home During the Coronavirus Lockdown ... ›
- Jet Fuel From Sugarcane? It's No Flight of Fancy - EcoWatch ›
- What Role Can Biofuels Play in Reducing Greenhouse Gas ... ›