Shying Away From Sun Increases Melanoma Risk

24 April, 2011 at 10:14 | Posted in Body & Mind | 2 Comments
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By Dr. John Briffa

Recently, the weather in London has been glorious and warm. However, an article that appeared in The Daily Mail on April 6 cast a shadow. It concerns the tragic death of a 21-year-old woman from malignant melanoma.

Is it true that exposing the skin to ultraviolet light causes malignant melanoma? I know this link is constantly made, but does it stand up to scrutiny?

In July 2008, the British Medical Journal ran an article by Dr. Sam Shuster (a dermatologist) in which he dissects some pertinent research regarding the link between sunlight exposure and malignant melanoma. Following are some of the points made in this article.

Some forms of skin cancer (relatively harmless basal cell and squamous cell cancers) tend to occur in sun-exposed parts of the body, but 75 percent of malignant melanomas do not.

The relationship with latitude is small and inconsistent. In other words, locations closer to the equator with more sunlight exposure do not see significantly increased malignant melanoma incidence.

Malignant melanoma incidence and death from this condition are lower in individuals with increased sunlight exposure. Eleven studies are cited as evidence to support this.

Incidence of malignant melanoma is not reduced and can be increased by sunscreen use.

Malignant melanoma risk associated with sunbed use is “small and inconsistent.”

Inducing malignant melanoma in the laboratory using ultraviolet light is difficult (in contrast to basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas).

In short, the relationship between sunlight exposure and malignant melanoma is far from clear-cut. There is even some evidence that sunlight exposure might help protect against this condition.

Read more: Shying Away From Sun Increases Melanoma Risk | Health | Epoch Times

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2 Comments »

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  1. Dr. Briffa,

    Hi. I come from a medical family, (although I am personally not in medicine. I’m in media and journalism)and I would be very interested in getting the name of the article by Dr. Sam Shuster.

    You are quite correct when you say that the link between malignant skin cancers and sun exposure is made over and over again in the media. It would be very interesting to take a look at evidence to the contrary.


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