Vitamin D is essential for life so why are we fearing the SUN?

Vitamin D deficiency is endemic in Australia.

WHY? Why this crazy paradox?

I have grown up in this amazing nation gert by rolling waves, sandy beaches and a generous sun. Yet I am bamboozled at what appears to be the biggest public health faux pas I have even seen.

Is it because we have been brow beaten into avoiding the sun – courtesy an anti-sun campaign? Slip slop slap by Sid the Seagull.

Oh in case you haven’t seen or heard the jingle for awhile here it is…

The intent of the like of the skin cancer foundation, have no doubt, been altruistic. They don’t want us to get skin cancers and really what they don’t want is us to get melanoma which has the highest mortality of the skin cancers.

The trade off of avoiding the sun maybe worse. And to date, no one has researched, measured or scientifically provided the jewel of EVIDENCE BASED MEDICINE opinion that can validate that the public health message is 100% correct.

I will say at the outset, all I wish for is a peppered down stance from the skin cancer foundation.

ABC radio interview here

My recommendations would be along the lines of:

“Some sun exposure is essential for life and wellbeing but no baking, solariums and please have annual skin cancer checks by a professional”

Some  430 000 (nearly half a million) people are diagnosed with skin cancers in Australia every year. Yet only 10- 12,000 of theses are melanomas. Of these approximately 10% die from it’s aggressiveness and metastasis. It is sad and it often affects young people which makes it even more sad.

Yet the paradox of the Skin Cancer Foundation (slip slop slap, avoid the sun at all costs) has possibly led to more breast cancer, bowel and other cancers. More auto immune diseases, more immunity issues, allergy and hormone imbalances.

No study has compared the lives saved by having such an extreme health message – AVOID THE SUN versus the lives lost due to cancer (and other diseases including MS, osteoporosis and breast cancer).

Vitamin D deficiency is linked to many chronic diseases (breast cancer, well every cancer, bone diseases, hormone imbalances, depression, MS, autoimmune diseases and learning disabilities). I have a special interest in breast cancer and vitamin D deficiency.

Why is the SUN critical for Vitamin D 

Vitamin D is normally made on the surface of you skin by activation by the sun and UV rays! It is a very complex process by the initiation of it all starts with UVB rays on the skin. If these rays are blocked (chemically or physically) then the process does NOT commence.

There are different forms of UV (ultraviolet) rays that penetrate the outer orbit and hit the planet (and us). UVA are typically deflecting in the early part of the day and later parts. I haven’t read about any health related benefit to being exposed to these rays but no doubt they do. UVB rays are the rays that you will find in the middle of the day, between 10am – 2pm (the time we are told to avoid the sun) and it is these rays that stimulate Vitamin D synthesis.

What does Vitamin D do in the body?

Vitamin D is vital for hormone, bone and immune HEALTH and it’s role in breast cancer prevention and treatment is just coming to light (excuse the pun)!

When Vitamin D is synthesised (converted) to calcitriol is acts like a hormone and regulates calcium and phosphate in the blood stream which helps with bone growth. Calcidiol is converted to calcitriol and plays a vital role in every cell (called apoptosis) and if the DNA matter starts to mutate, it implodes the cell. This means it plays a role as a cancer surveillance vitamin. It also helps with muscular function and inflammation.

What is the HARD evidence?

If you type in Vitamin D deficiency or diseases (you chose your most feared) and you will have a full page of studies to chose from. However if I am to go toe to toe with people who want EVIDENCE BASED MEDICINE then I usually turn to Pubmed where the world’s most reverred medical studies are published. I use this site as it is supported by doctors. There are many other wonderful studies on nutritional findings, vitamins, minerals, herbals etc and Pubmed is not the site to find this information. But seeing as I am toying with the idea of starting a “know your Vitamin D level” awareness day then I will reference what doctors of this land to consider blue chip.

These are some published findings.

1 billion people world wide are estimated to be low in Vitamin D and it is linked to all sorts of cancers ref: Sunlight Vitamin D and Skin Cancer Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2012 Oct 12.

Vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy has been associated with all sorts of negative outcomes, including gestational diabetes, bacterial vaginosis, pre-eclampsia, post partum depression to name a few.Ref: The impact of vitamin D on pregnancy: a systematic review. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2012 Sep 14.

In Canada Dr Pamela Goodwin is well known for her research into breast cancer and lifestyle impacts. If you have breast cancer I urge you to look closely at the links between Vitamin D and breast cancer, particularly as preventing metastasis.

Dr Pamela Goodwin, Medical Oncologist

Go to google, type in “Vitamin D deficiency” or “Vitamin D and diseases” you will have pages and pages of great studies to look at. Some are equivocal (couldn’t say for sure) others find no association, BUT an overwhelming majority find that Vitamin D deficiency is implicated in a magnitude of diseases. This isn’t just about some earthy naturopath from the Gold Coast ranting. Vitamin D deficiency is robbing people of their lives…

I want to see the current public health message changed!

Sun in moderation.

What is happening in Australia?

Well this is where I do scratch my head and think “FAR OUT – we have so much FREE sunlight, the best source of Vitamin D, we are smart and affluent but apparently don’t get it”. Our children are developing bone diseases that used to be found only in 3rd world countries where malnutrition is rife. These same diseases are affecting our blessed children.

This is the National Health take on it.  Sounds like they should be MAJORLY concerned when you read it. AND YET THERE IS NOT PUBLIC campaign to do anything about it. When I send my patients to doctors to do a blood test many refuse! Is that not negligence?

This is a great article published by the Sydney Morning Herald about sun exposure and vitamin D deficiency. Even in summer 46% of Australians are low on Vitamin D!

Who is at risk:

>  people in nursing homes

> people who wear religious shrouds and head gear

> office workers

> hyper vigilant “sun-avoiders”.

Interestingly Dan Buetner found that one of his 9 recommended factors of his Blue Zones was daily exposure to the SUN! These communities live on the equator and get in the sun. Not baking, just moderate daily sun exposure.

What can you do?

Supplementing might not be the answer “.. If sunlight exposure is adequate, dietary vitamin D can be considered unnecessary ..”(Holick 2001).

Diet is also a bit iffy… Food sources of Vitamin D include dairy, egg yolk and alfalfa.

1. Find out what your levels are. You can ask your doctor to order a blood test for you or I can send a request slip out to you and we can discuss the results via skype.
Sun exposure is normal and necessary

2. If you are not in a high risk group, 10- 20 mins per day of sun exposure can stimulate Vitamin D synthesis

3. Walk in the middle of the day 10-2pm when sun exposure is at its highest and the valuable UVB rays are being received

4. Have regular skin checks for skin cancers just as a matter of good health management

5. Spread the word, spread this blog, click on all the links below, talk with your friends and urge them to find out their Vitamin D levels.

NB: High risk for skin cancers are African negro (*ironically they have a high incidence of melanomas) and Scotish decent,red hair, fair skinned and have a family history of skin cancers

I will talk more about starting a national “Sunshine Day – what is your Vitamin D level” when I have more info.

Please leave your comments, concerns and share. The more people who know about this the more lives we will save. Thank you Sam x