Melanoma Risk May Be Genetic for Redheads
By Dr. Mercola
People with red hair, very fair skin, freckles and a genetically-based
inability to tan have the highest risk of developing melanoma, the
deadliest form of skin cancer.
Conventionally, this has been blamed on the fact that people with fair
skin have less pigment (melanin) in their skin, which means they have
less “natural sunscreen” against ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the
Therefore, the conventional dogma is that the sun is more damaging to
redheads with fair skin, and this increases their skin cancer risk.
The problem with this widely held belief is that melanoma often appears
on skin that is not exposed to the sun, which suggests sun exposure may
actually be only a scapegoat while other variables are the true culprit.
New research supports this notion, and found redheads have an increased
melanoma risk whether they go out into the sun or not.
Sun Exposure is Not to Blame for Increased Melanoma Risk in Redheads
Your skin, hair and color of your eyes are determined by two pigments,
pheomelanin, which is reddish-yellow, and eumelanin, which is
According to a study published in the journal Nature, among mice that
were bred to be susceptible to cancer, 50 percent of those with
golden-yellow hair (the “redheads”) developed melanoma within a year –
with no exposure to UV light. This was a far higher rate than occurred
among black or albino mice.
The researchers were so surprised, they thought it was a mistake and
that their lights were somehow emitting UV radiation. Even after double
checking, they found they were not, which meant that sun exposure was
not the culprit. What was, the researchers suggested, was the
pheomelanin pigment itself, which they say may contribute to damaging
oxidative stress in the skin cells, triggering cancer.
In fact, in albino mice that had their pigment production genetically
disabled, no melanoma occurred. So, there appears to be a genetic
variable at play that was previously unrecognized. Furthermore, there
are several other variables that also increase your melanoma risk, which
many are completely unaware of …
The Timing of Your Sun Exposure Matters
You’ve probably heard the advice to stay out of the sun when the mid-day
rays are the most intense -- roughly between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
This misguided advice is actually the opposite of what you need to most
effectively lower your melanoma risk. Let me explain …
The best time to be in the sun for vitamin D production is actually as
near to solar noon as possible.
This is because while UVA rays (the unhealthy wavelengths that penetrate
your skin more deeply and cause more free radical damage) are quite
constant during ALL hours of daylight, throughout the entire year, UVB
(the healthy wavelengths that help your skin produce vitamin D) are low
in morning and evening and high at midday. So to use the sun to maximize
your vitamin D production and minimize your risk of skin damage, the
middle of the day is the best and safest time. During this UVB-intense
period you will likely need the shortest sun exposure time to produce
the most vitamin D.
Additionally, UVB wavelengths cause the melanocytes within your skin to
produce more melanin, which is your natural sunscreen. UVA, on the other
hand, oxidizes already existing melanin, which is a cause of genetic
damage to skin cells. This has been linked not only to accelerated
aging, but also to carcinogenesis – hence, the link with melanoma.
Another important consideration is the length of exposure. You only need
enough exposure to have your skin turn the lightest shade of pink. This
may only be a few minutes for some if you have very pale skin.
Once you reach this point your body will not make any additional vitamin
D and any additional exposure will only cause harm and damage to your
skin. Most people with fair skin will max out their vitamin D production
in just 10-20 minutes, or, again, when your skin starts turning the
lightest shade of pink. Some will need less, others more. The darker
your skin, the longer exposure you will need to optimize your vitamin D
This is an important point, because if you are shunning the sun for fear
of skin cancer, you are, ironically, missing out on one of the most
potent natural cancer protections available. Vitamin D's protective
effect against cancer works in multiple ways, including:
•Increasing the self-destruction (apoptosis) of mutated cells (which, if
allowed to replicate, could lead to cancer)
•Reducing the spread and reproduction of cancer cells
•Causing cells to become fully differentiated (cancer cells lack
•Reducing the growth of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) from
pre-existing ones, which is a step in the transition of dormant tumors
Optimizing your vitamin D levels is so important for skin cancer (and
other types of cancer) prevention, that if you can’t get out into the
sun, your next best option would be to use a safe tanning bed or,
lastly, a high-quality vitamin D3 supplement.
A rather voluminous amount of research now attests to the protective
effect of vitamin D against at least 16 different types of cancer, and
as stated above, normalizing your vitamin D levels can cut your internal
cancer risk IN HALF! And that's just by raising your levels up to the 30
ng/ml range, which is still believed to be a deficiency state by most
vitamin D experts. Ideally, you want your vitamin D levels in the 50-70
ng/ml range, and even upwards of 100 ng/ml if you have or are seeking to
prevent cancer or heart disease.
I recommend you have your levels tested and regularly monitored to make
sure they are in the therapeutic range. Your physician can do this for
you, or another alternative is to join the D*Action study. D*Action is a
worldwide public health campaign aiming to solve the vitamin D
deficiency epidemic through focus on testing, education, and grassroots
word of mouth.
Sunlight is Protective Against Melanoma
Exposure to sunlight, in particular UVB wavelengths, is protective
against melanoma. And, as far as the scientific evidence details, the
vitamin D your body produces in response to UVB radiation is highly
protective. As written in The Lancet:1
"Paradoxically, outdoor workers have a decreased risk of melanoma
compared with indoor workers, suggesting that chronic sunlight exposure
can have a protective effect."
A study in Medical Hypotheses2 suggested that indoor workers may have
increased rates of melanoma because they're exposed to sunlight through
windows, and only UVA light, unlike UVB, can pass through window glass.
At the same time, these indoor workers, who get three to nine times less
solar UV exposure than outdoor workers, are missing out on exposure to
the beneficial UVB rays, and as a result have lower levels of vitamin D.
The study even noted that indoor UV actually breaks down vitamin D3
formed after outdoor UVB exposure, which would therefore make vitamin D3
deficiency and melanoma risk even worse. A number of associations
between sun exposure and melanoma can be found in the medical
literature, such as:
•Occupational exposure, such as farmers and fishermen, and regular
weekend sun exposure are associated with decreased risk of melanoma
•Sun exposure appears to protect against melanoma on skin sites not
exposed to sun light, and melanoma occurring on skin with large UV
exposure has the best prognosis
•Patients with the highest blood levels of vitamin D have thinner
melanoma and better survival prognosis than those with the lowest
vitamin D levels.
Your Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio: Another Important Cancer Variable
You need both types of these essential fats in your diet—omega-3 AND
omega-6. It isn't that one is "good" and the other is "bad." Both
perform distinct biological functions and offer their own unique health
benefits. (For a complete discussion of the differences between types of
dietary fat, omega-3 versus omega-6, DHA, EPA, PUFAs, etc., please refer
to this comprehensive fatty acids overview.)
The major challenge is when you have excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty
acids. Most experts agree that the omega-6:3 ratio should range from 1:1
to 5:1. But in the modern world, it now ranges from 20 to 50:1 for most
Americans. Most are getting far too many polyunsaturated (PUFAs) omega-6
fats, which is especially pernicious as the most common source is in
highly processed, rancid vegetable oils made from genetically engineered
corn and soy. Also, omega-6 fatty acids convert to arachadonic acid,
which is literally the fuel that the pro-inflammatory enzyme Cox-2
(which is almost up-regulated in cancerous cells) burns to create
inflammation in the body. In other words, too many omega-6 PUFAs
contribute to chronic inflammation
Ninety percent of the money Americans currently spend on food is for
processed foods that are loaded with omega-6 fatty acid rich PUFAs, so
this is obviously a real challenge for many people today.
To lower your risk of cancer and other chronic diseases, you likely need
to eliminate many of the omega-6 fats in your diet, particularly the
processed fats that have been refined and heated – which means they are
guaranteed to be rancid, and following ingestion, will make your own
tissues rancid. Ideally, you should have about equal or twice as many
omega-6 fats as omega-3 fats in your diet. This is a relatively small
amount of oil, amounting to about three grams or four 750-mg capsules
per day, for a 150-pound adult.
And, if you consider that most vegetables have a 1:1 ratio of omega-3 to
omega-6 fatty acids, it implies that you will be switching away from the
bean (e.g. soy, peanut) and grain (e.g. corn, wheat) based diet of the
modern agrarian diet to the more genetically appropriate diet of our
hunter and gatherer ancestors, e.g. Paleo diet and related grain-reduced
or grain-free diets.
The average American diet is seriously deficient in the animal-based
omega-3 fats, DHA and EPA. So, along with reducing your processed
omega-6 fats, you likely need to increase your intake of omega-3 fats,
particularly animal-based omega-3 fats, which have been found to be
protective against cancer.
Consuming a healthy diet full of natural antioxidants is perhaps the
most useful strategy to avoid sun damage to your skin, as fresh, raw,
unprocessed foods deliver both the fatty acids your body needs to
maintain a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 oils in your skin, as
well as the photoprotective phytocompounds (e.g. cocoa, turmeric,
resveratrol)3 which is your first line of defense against sunburn. If
you do have red hair, freckles and fair skin, this is likely even more
important to help reduce your cancer risk.
The Bible and Your
Coconut Oil Study
Shows Waist Reduction in Women
A study has shown that dietary supplementation with coconut oil may
result in a reduction in waist circumference and other benefits.
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