What is a person to do when you have some doctors saying we all need to get back out into the sun on the one hand while on the other hand a lot of other doctors are saying we all need to avoid the sun to reduce the risk of skin cancer? Is it a simple case of who’s right and who’s wrong?
As you might imagine, there is no simple answer, and posing the question as an either/or choice oversimplifies the complex interactions between what appear to be polar opposites. At Vitamin D Explained we try to take a balanced, both/and perspective. Yes, we definitely believe that sunshine has gotten a really bad rap in recent decades, and we think it’s safe to say that dermatologists, in their zeal to protect people from the very real horrors of skin cancer, have perhaps swung the pendulum to far in the direction of sun avoidance. We say this with confidence because there is now just enough research emerging about the benefits of sunshine and vitamin D to lead us to that conclusion. But there’s still this nagging question of why the anti-sun movement has gained such a strong foothold in modern culture.
We’ve hinted strongly in previous articles that we’re concerned about the relationship between many dermatologists and the sun avoidance industry. One investigative reporter posed as a dermatology patient to explore first-hand the message that dermatologists are sending in the San Francisco area. What is fascinating about what this reporter found is not so much any sense that dermatologists have been bought off by the sunscreen industry (although the sunscreen advice from all the dermatologists visited was pretty extreme and over the top), but rather the sense that dermatologists are chasing insurance dollars to remove moles and lesions, whether there is any serious risk of cancer involved or not.
There are studies showing real data on how dermatologists are over-reporting the incidence of melanoma, which might help explain why the US, with only 4.5% of the world’s population as 52% of the cases of melanoma worldwide. The basic message from all the dermatologists visited was that the sun is harmful. Period. End of story. But what are we to make of the fact that millions of people are prescribed indoor tanning treatments for a variety of skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis by dermatologists? Talk about mixed messages! And once again, phototherapy is covered by insurance. The differences between indoor tanning beds and phototherapy are very small.
Out of four dermatologist visits, only one did not spout the business-as-usual avoid-the-sun mantra of the other three dermatologists. We find that unacceptable.
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