3

votes

Did paleo man get skin cancer?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created May 19, 2012 at 6:24 PM

I have pale skin and tend to freckle rather than tan. This in theory puts me at a higher risk for skin cancer. When I have prolonged sun exposure on lots of skin (e.g., beach), I do wear sunblock or I will burn. A very good friend of mine is a dermatologist and strongly recommends that I also wear some sort of sunblock on exposed skin all the time (i.e., moisturizer with sunblock on face every morning). I live fairly far from the equator (Michigan), so the sunlight is not so strong here.

What I'd like to believe is that the high levels of skin cancer today are driven more by poor diet, rather than sun exposure. And that eating a healthy diet (good n3/n6 ratio, not too much PUFA, healthy gut, etc) should be at least somewhat protective against skin cancer. Paleolithic man obviously wasn't wearing sunblock. I'm guessing he likely was exposed to sun a lot, too. Do we know if paleolithic man developed skin cancer anywhere near the rates we see today?

My friend also says that a tan or freckles are a sign of sun damage. Many on here seem to see a tan as protective, rather than damaging. Any thoughts on that?

I am not too excited about taking supplements and much prefer whole food. I had thought that Vitamin D was hard to get from whole food, but my friend claims that is not true either. Who is right?

I know I've seen at least one dermatologist posting here before, though I can't remember her name. Would be especially great to hear from some paleo dermatologists.

4523f952f67fa6485efeac2c9ea810cf

(166)

on May 02, 2013
at 03:04 PM

I don't get burned after going paleo either.

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

(9402)

on May 24, 2012
at 02:32 PM

Very useful response. Thank you. @Terry, do you have links or backup for that by chance?

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 21, 2012
at 05:08 AM

I was just informing you that there were "paleos" living beyond 20 degreees of the equator.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 21, 2012
at 05:06 AM

I doubt anyone in Kenya knew there was such a thing as a polar bear.

747f9c27424619fe3ae717c7455c292e

(610)

on May 20, 2012
at 11:37 PM

I'm getting the whole golden-complected thing as well these days. It's not a tan in the normal sense, but it's not pale the way I used to be.

747f9c27424619fe3ae717c7455c292e

(610)

on May 20, 2012
at 11:34 PM

Update: I went to a video shoot today not realizing that I was going to be in direct sun the whole time. 1pm to 4:30pm (albeit in Maine) one month away from midsummer. No sunscreen, no hat. I'm only a little pink. Three years ago I would have been scarlet right now.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on May 20, 2012
at 09:13 PM

Were they pale skinned? Did they get skin cancer? I doubt many of them left Kenya to hunt polar bears and quit eating these: http://rawfoodsos.com/2011/05/31/wild-and-ancient-fruit/

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 20, 2012
at 07:52 PM

Some "Paleos" were living in Northern Europe, 40000 years ago.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 20, 2012
at 05:33 AM

Oh yeah what a disaster leaving Kenya has been. Woe is me. Living here on a beautiful Mediterranean island. lol

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on May 20, 2012
at 02:07 AM

Emphasis on the balance- you are at a greater risk for skin cancer as a pale person. My dad got skin cancer on his scalp as a strawberry blonde, and he is lucky he caught it early and got it treated quickly. It is a major risk if you don't cover up adequately or limit your sun exposure.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on May 20, 2012
at 02:05 AM

This is good advice- cover up if you are pale, just a little sun exposure, sunscreen when long sleeves and hats aren't an option. My dad had skin cancer on his scalp as a strawberry-blonde freckled Englishman, and he uses this strategy now.

5662d1262516ccbd70249e7aeaf58901

(681)

on May 20, 2012
at 12:16 AM

I would like to walk around with my shirt off, but it would be frowned upon where I live, so I take cod liver oil for vitamin D (and A). Weston A Price has info and brand recommendations: http://www.westonaprice.org/cod-liver-oil/cod-liver-oil-basics

Medium avatar

(10611)

on May 19, 2012
at 11:35 PM

We've also lost our protective skin pigmentation. We NEVER should have left Kenya.

22fcea5ec4415ff2238c663324aca40f

(556)

on May 19, 2012
at 11:09 PM

You indeed remember you anthropology correctly.

C250cd5da05ca54ad3133630ff614573

(175)

on May 19, 2012
at 07:56 PM

Remember that if you have pale skin, you absorb vitamin D like 8 times faster than a person with a much darker skin. Maybe one or two minutes a day is all you need. If I were you, I would sunbathe a few minutes per day at least 3 times a week, and then get tested to see if it's enough.

32123f4f25bdf6a7b70c9c2a719386ed

(396)

on May 19, 2012
at 07:49 PM

Good advise... there is some speculation that the chemicals in sunscreen along with low vitamin D levels puts us at risk for skin cancer.

F007c2666acead0ba77367cccf2f9b12

on May 19, 2012
at 07:36 PM

i don't have anything scientific to add - but a few years ago i did an experiment on myself (i freckle rather than tan, i'm almost as pale as it gets, mostly european/irish, blonde, blue eyes). i went out in the sun a LOT, and the first few times, i burned to a crisp and used a ton of pure aloe. within a few weeks of summer near full body sun exposure... i stopped burning entirely and could spend hours in a two piece outside with no discomfort or burning and started getting a mild tan in addition to my freckles. so, i don't know what that means for cancer, but in terms of not burning...

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on May 19, 2012
at 06:51 PM

It's about balance: zero sun means vitamin D deficiency. Too much sun means sunburns, oxidative stress and DNA damage. I've always seen time scales in the minutes as being adequate for producing 10000s of IU.

276a5e631b62f8e0793987c0496364bb

(1644)

on May 19, 2012
at 06:43 PM

"Very few foods naturally contain vitamin D, and those that do have a very variable vitamin D content. Recently it was observed that wild caught salmon had between 75% and 90% more vitamin D(3) compared with farmed salmon." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18290718 Sun exposure will always be by far the most efficient way to maintain healthy levels of Vitamin D.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on May 19, 2012
at 06:28 PM

A tan is definitely not a sign of sun damage.

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8 Answers

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7
1407bd6152d9fdbc239250385159fea1

on May 19, 2012
at 07:43 PM

As far as paleo man getting skin cancer specifically, that probably falls into the realm of speculation. However, if I remember my anthropology correctly, malignant melanoma is basically nonexistent in non-industrialized, indigenous populations. Further, as far as your particular situation goes, light skin--as well as dark skin--are both adaptive changes determined by environment. It's a trade off. Light skinned peoples produce Vitamin D more efficiently (i.e. in less sun exposure), but are at risk for folate degradation and sunburn. Dark skinned peoples are the opposite, in that dark skin is well-suited to consistent sun-exposure in that it protects from the aforementioned folate degradation. A tan is not necessarily a sign of "sun damage," though freckles, which are just concentrations of melanin I believe, may be otherwise; I'm unsure. Vitamin D is darn hard to find in non-fortified food products, and as such, you're best suited gettings it from the sun or in a D3 supplement. The D3 supplement will increase plasma Vitamin D levels, but unfortunately with that path, you will not get any of the various secosteroids produced during the sun-induced endogenous D production.

If you so desire to get some sun without any negative ramifications, I suggest a ramp-up period, during which time you get adequate and increasing, but not excessive doses of sunlight. With regards to protecting yourself from the sun if you're forced to be out for a long time period, I'd prefer the use of sun-protectant clothing in lieu of some commercial sunblock goo.

Best of luck

22fcea5ec4415ff2238c663324aca40f

(556)

on May 19, 2012
at 11:09 PM

You indeed remember you anthropology correctly.

32123f4f25bdf6a7b70c9c2a719386ed

(396)

on May 19, 2012
at 07:49 PM

Good advise... there is some speculation that the chemicals in sunscreen along with low vitamin D levels puts us at risk for skin cancer.

Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

(9402)

on May 24, 2012
at 02:32 PM

Very useful response. Thank you. @Terry, do you have links or backup for that by chance?

3
747f9c27424619fe3ae717c7455c292e

on May 19, 2012
at 08:25 PM

I second that advice on sun exposure. I'm a light-skinned red head, and was always careful about wearing sunblock any time I went outside during the summer growing up. This is not to say I didn't get burned though - I always seemed to miss a spot or failed to re-goop soon enough.

These days I try to get some exposure every time it's sunny, but if I'm going to be out for very long periods when the sun is high (i.e > 40 min between 10:30 and 2:30 in Maine) I wear long sleeves and a hat, sometimes even gloves.

Basically the only time I wear sunscreen these days is for Ultimate tournaments where I'll be outside all day and long sleeves are not an option.

In two years I've worn sunscreen maybe 5 times yet I've burned much less often than I used to. I'm also much less pale, and am generally healthier, (though there's far more than one variable in that equation...)

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on May 20, 2012
at 02:05 AM

This is good advice- cover up if you are pale, just a little sun exposure, sunscreen when long sleeves and hats aren't an option. My dad had skin cancer on his scalp as a strawberry-blonde freckled Englishman, and he uses this strategy now.

747f9c27424619fe3ae717c7455c292e

(610)

on May 20, 2012
at 11:34 PM

Update: I went to a video shoot today not realizing that I was going to be in direct sun the whole time. 1pm to 4:30pm (albeit in Maine) one month away from midsummer. No sunscreen, no hat. I'm only a little pink. Three years ago I would have been scarlet right now.

1
559a1bf85bfe38a0fbbf56377c7278b4

on May 20, 2012
at 06:03 PM

Since eating paleo my moles have shrunk and keratoses are fading. I put this down to eating more saturated fat and less polyunsaturates. I am careful about sun exposure, so it's hard to say if I am burning less, but I think I am ...

1
5e63e3fa78e998736106a4a5b9aef58c

on May 20, 2012
at 12:28 PM

I'm pale and freckly, but I no longer wear sunblock because I no longer get sunburned. It's the damnedest thing, really, because I used to get ghastly second-degree sunburns in no time flat.

Granted, I do try to limit sun exposure during the middle of the day (I'm not ready to push my luck too far), but last week I sat on a patio at a restaurant, in mid- to late-afternoon sun, for two full hours--and no burn. Earlier this week, I spent almost an entire overcast day outdoors--and again, no burn. Used to be I'd go crispy even through significant cloud cover if I was out long enough. And my skin didn't even feel dried out, as it used to (these days it's softer and smoother than it's been in over a decade, even after sun exposure).

I don't tan, either, though. I'm a bit more golden-complected these days and less shocking-pale, but nothing I'd call tan. And my freckles are very faint, compared to the walking frecklesplosion I used to be, post-burn (once I was done peeling massive sheets of dead skin).

I noticed the change after I had been completely without grains and sugar for six weeks. Since I live in Seattle, where we don't get much sunlight, I've been supplementing Vitamin D. But the lack of sunburn started before that, before I started taking Omega-3 fish oil, and before I eliminated crappy oils.

Okay, okay, it's just anecdata. But given the huge change in how my skin reacts to sun exposure since going even half-assed paleo? I can easily imagine my pale, prehistoric forebears going through life unscorched, and highly unlikely to develop skin cancer.

747f9c27424619fe3ae717c7455c292e

(610)

on May 20, 2012
at 11:37 PM

I'm getting the whole golden-complected thing as well these days. It's not a tan in the normal sense, but it's not pale the way I used to be.

4523f952f67fa6485efeac2c9ea810cf

(166)

on May 02, 2013
at 03:04 PM

I don't get burned after going paleo either.

1
C53665c3f012fa1ede91033b08a8a6e7

(2269)

on May 19, 2012
at 09:07 PM

What's weird is I don't seem to sunburn anymore, and I'm very fair-skinned.

Freckles are genetic. They don't imply sun damage. Actinic keratoses and busted blood vessels do, though, and I have those from severe sunburns as a kid.

1
6ba6dc54fccbb9e01a07595137cecfa2

on May 19, 2012
at 07:59 PM

Genetically speaking there is speculation that the removal of pressures of selectivity are the main reason for disease increases.

Weak genes were not passed on because they did not survive the pressures of living the paleo lifestyle.

Today we have removed most pressures as far as basic survival goes in the first world countries.

so this along with poor nutrition is the perfect storm for pathological mayhem.

Theoretically speaking of coarse.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 20, 2012
at 05:33 AM

Oh yeah what a disaster leaving Kenya has been. Woe is me. Living here on a beautiful Mediterranean island. lol

Medium avatar

(10611)

on May 19, 2012
at 11:35 PM

We've also lost our protective skin pigmentation. We NEVER should have left Kenya.

0
20836aa40bbc3b1b04e3215f1b37e729

on May 02, 2013
at 09:42 AM

Somehow barely anyone mentioned that paleolithic people probably were rather higher pigmented than today's whites, what's more, contrary to modern whites they didn't spent vacation in tropical places laying on the beach for whole days - they migrated in rather opposite direction. I'm pretty sure modern hunter-gatherers are adapted to latitudes they live, so they aren't prone to get skin cancer. Also you can list darker-skinned people living in higher latitudes since the end of Paleolith (or longer) and being healthy, but not the opposite. People of European origin living in low latitudes are those who mostly get skin cancer. Add to that ozone depletion and you get the highest prevalence of skin cancer in Australia. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/types/skin/incidence/uk-skin-cancer-incidence-statistics#world

Although northern parts of the USA aren't that warm, but they are still in quite low latitudes like Southern Europe. You don't really need that much sun exposure. Here you can calculate how much exactly

So I strongly recommend using a sunscreen with broad UV spectrum protection. European brands are the best in that matter.

0
Medium avatar

(10611)

on May 19, 2012
at 11:32 PM

I'll venture to guess that paleos were strongly pigmented and living within 20 degrees of the equator. Loss of pigmentation at higher latitudes would date outside paleo times.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on May 20, 2012
at 09:13 PM

Were they pale skinned? Did they get skin cancer? I doubt many of them left Kenya to hunt polar bears and quit eating these: http://rawfoodsos.com/2011/05/31/wild-and-ancient-fruit/

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 21, 2012
at 05:06 AM

I doubt anyone in Kenya knew there was such a thing as a polar bear.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 20, 2012
at 07:52 PM

Some "Paleos" were living in Northern Europe, 40000 years ago.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 21, 2012
at 05:08 AM

I was just informing you that there were "paleos" living beyond 20 degreees of the equator.

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