Our Place in the Sun

I took my med school's course on nutrition back in the 90's, when Vitamin E was all the rage. If I recall those heady days, the only question about E was whether we should slather it on our skin, eat it, or freebase it.

Times change. Now, E is out and D is in, in a big way. You may know that Vitamin D is the vitamin we make, by sitting in the sun's UV rays (technically, since we produce it, can't be a vitamin, but I digress).

Some oncologists and dermatologists currently believe D is so important in fighting cancer, it's actually worth running the risks associated with increased sun exposure (namely, cancer. And wrinkles. But mostly cancer). Needless to say, this is controversial:

...Dr. Edward Giovannucci, a Harvard University professor of medicine and nutrition ... laid out his case in a keynote lecture at a recent American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Anaheim, Calif.

His research suggests that vitamin D might help prevent 30 deaths for each one caused by skin cancer.

“I would challenge anyone to find an area or nutrient or any factor that has such consistent anti-cancer benefits as vitamin D,” Giovannucci told the cancer scientists. “The data are really quite remarkable.”

It gets juicier:
“I am advocating common sense,” not prolonged sunbathing or tanning salons, Holick said.

Skin cancer is rarely fatal, he notes. The most deadly form, melanoma, accounts for only 7,770 of the 570,280 cancer deaths expected to occur in the United States this year.

More than 1 million milder forms of skin cancer will occur, and these are the ones tied to chronic or prolonged suntanning.

Repeated sunburns — especially in childhood and among redheads and very fair-skinned people — have been linked to melanoma, but there is no credible scientific evidence that moderate sun exposure causes it, Holick contends.

“The problem has been that the American Academy of Dermatology has been unchallenged for 20 years,” he says. “They have brainwashed the public at every level.”

This guy, Dr. Michael Holick, helped discover how Vitamin D works. But when he published his book about the benefits of UV and the dermatology brainwashing, he was stripped of his professorship (which no doubt led to more ... exposure)

Via metafilter, who reminds us that Baz Luhrman's advice about sunscreen, and life, is suddenly suspect.