Researchers are discovering that tanning a few times a week could save your life while warding off dozens of deadly diseases, including cancer. According to a recent report in USA Today, doctors are increasingly prescribing vitamin D. That’s because vitamin D increasingly seems important for preventing and even treating many types of cancer. In the last three months alone, four separate studies found it helped protect against lymphoma and cancers of the prostate, lung and, ironically, the skin. The strongest evidence is for colon cancer.
Many people aren’t getting enough vitamin D. It’s hard to do from food and fortified milk alone, and supplements are problematic. So the thinking is this: Even if too much sun leads to skin cancer, which is rarely deadly, too little sun may be worse.
No one is suggesting that people fry on a beach. But many scientists believe that “safe sun” — 15 minutes or so a few times a week without sunscreen — is not only possible but helpful to health. One is Dr. Edward Giovannucci, a Harvard University professor of medicine and nutrition who laid out his case in a keynote lecture at a recent American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Anaheim, Calif. His research suggests that vitamin D might help prevent 30 deaths for each one caused by skin cancer.
“I would challenge anyone to find an area or nutrient or any factor that has such consistent anti-cancer benefits as vitamin D,” Giovannucci told the cancer scientists. “The data are really quite remarkable.”
The talk so impressed the American Cancer Society’s chief epidemiologist, Dr. Michael Thun, that the society is reviewing its sun protection guidelines. “There is now intriguing evidence that vitamin D may have a role in the prevention as well as treatment of certain cancers,” Thun said.
Even some dermatologists may be coming around. “I find the evidence to be mounting and increasingly compelling,” said Dr. Allan Halpern, dermatology chief at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, who advises several cancer groups. Read more.