Friday 16 July 2010. AS I listened to Radio 4 Woman’s Hour
on the way to work, I found myself increasingly incensed & talking to the
In the studio was a male travel medicine expert, a woman who
loved the suntanned look, and another woman who was determined to be “pale
The travel medicine expert
remarked that in the conference
he’d attended the previous week, filled with reports on vaccinations & exotic diseases linked to travel, there was but “one paper on
the sun”, by which he meant the detrimental effects of it on your health.
This reminded me of an interesting and equally “only one” poster at the UKPHA
meeting 2010 in Bournemouth which intrigued me
because I’d not thought such research was necessary. Elizabeth Norton, a nurse
researcher of Bournemouth University was conducting a study on why young women
were sunbathing on the Bournemouth beach
without sunscreen or other precautions such as reducing the time they spent in
the sun. It was a case of knowing the dangers but just not bothering; comfort
& looking good mattered more.
Our in studio Radio 4 expert claimed that people of his ilk,
were becoming exhausted at warning of the dangers of the sun, without
apparently changing anyone’s behaviour and having any impact on the rising
incidence of skin cancer (2000 people per yr in the UK die from this disease).(I
would have wanted a breakdown on the age groups…are these people who would
have begun package holidaying in the sun since the 1970’s, how many were veterans of the second-world war
who were unable to take precautions & after 60 tend to get skin cancer? Linked
to the nurse’s study, is it more girls than men? I provide references below
which have some of this information).
Reasons why I was incensed:
- They’ve got advice fatigue! Well, the obsession with
sun-worship for Northern Europeans began in the 1920’s, and escalated
with the cheap package holidays of the
1970’s. Smoking has been generally available to the working man for at
long (part of your soldiering kit in WW1 was your tobacco allowance)
and its taken
since 1951, when Doll linked smoking to lung cancer, to change public
opinion so as to make smoking socially unacceptable. Even so we still
young people starting. They need to keep
going, take a leaf (!) out of the antismoking campaigns, work with fashion
exposure ages the skin as does smoking…could this be a way to stop the young,
suggested the interviewer & so thought I? If the sun-tanner is anything to
go by, only if you can prove that
like smoking it makes you look 10 years older. She was convinced she was
healthier with her carefully acquired, all precautions taken, suntan and that
she looked like every other 42 year old!
Actually too much sun for a pale skin, always
catches up with you later on, whether or not you avoid skin cancer. Your skin
ages ‘tis true, but its not just the texture & colour: You can get little
brown seborrhagic warts later in life, in areas where you experienced sunburn
at some point in time. Not pretty.
& interesting interviewee, takes it to excess, wears factor 50 at all times, avoids the outdoors, and takes vitamin D supplement. Oh
come on…you only need the vitamin D supplement because you are wearing factor
50 (total sunblock), so that your skin can’t access the UV it needs to make
vitamin D. Unless you are pregnant or are from an ethnic group with skin colour
more suited to the tropics, then research tells us that a balanced diet (with
foods supplying Vitamin D) and a healthy 15 minute sunny walk, bare-armed &
hatted, to the office in the UK, wearing factor 15 + is all
People of Northern European stock living in Northern Europe should just accept that
they have pale skins to ensure they get enough Vitamin D, and as the radiation
danger has increased in our region, we need to take precautions by wearing sun-creams,
wearing hats to shade our faces…wouldn’t we all like to look as youthful as
Joan Collins? According to Joan, interviewed by Piers Morgan on Life
Stories March 27 2010, she owes her youthful looks to good genes, and
keeping her face out of the sun with enormous hats! What we need is high street
fashion to popularise pale skin and hats for women, not just sunglasses! Hint to
travel medicine experts.
I’d like to remind you that you need at least 15 mins a day
sunshine in these latitudes to enable your body to make Vitamin D. Vitamin D is
needed for calcium uptake to make healthy bones but, following recent studies,
is now implicated in the functioning of our immune system and the development
of the nervous system. You can find out more about these studies in my
colleague’s February blog Bring
on the sunshine and from the references below.
Hot off the press (BBC), the latest research Low vitamin D levels 'linked to
Parkinson's disease' on Vitamin D and the nervous system, comes from
Finland, where the results of a 30 year study show a 3x fold increased risk of
Parkinson’s for people with the lowest
levels of Vitamin D. In 2009 a similar
increased risk was found for multiple sclerosis, although the study was not so
long-term see Vitamin D helps control MS
AS a colleague remarked, with these most recent research
findings in mind, are the dermatologists all wearing factor 50 whilst the
multiple sclerosis & Parkinson’s specialists are all sunbathing?
I personally have got the message.
On a Saturday four weeks ago, on a hot summer’s morning, I
found myself surrounded by show-jumping horses, wonderful beasts, in a field in
Bedfordshire, an idyllic pastoral setting. Anyone of which beasts could have
taken a hoof to me & what was I thinking about? I’d forgotten to put my
References from Global Health (to place next to your hat & suncream):
- Sun protection: Simple
precautions in the sun
- Sunscreen use and increased duration of intentional sun exposure: still a burning issue.
- Location and Vitamin D synthesis: is the hypothesis validated by geophysical data?
- Ultraviolet exposure
in five life decades and risk of cutaneous malignant melanoma. Norsk Epidemiologi 2009, Vol. 19, Suppl. 1, p34, 17th Norwegian Conference in epiodemiology, 5 – 6 November, 2009.
- Protective effect of green tea extracts on photoaging and photoimmunosuppression. Chinese Journal of Dermatology 2009, vol.42, no.1, 25-27.
- Effects of program exposure and engagement with tailored prevention communication on sun protection by young adolescents.