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.
asked byMike_T_1 (9402)
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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
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...)
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 ...
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.
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.
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.
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.