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Cancer Specialist: Sun Exposure Does Not Cause Melanoma

Audio

Aired 6/3/09

The risk of skin cancer increases in San Diego's sunny summer months, but not the risk of melanoma.

— The risk of skin cancer increases in San Diego's sunny summer months, but not the risk of melanoma.

Melanoma may be the most deadly form of skin cancer, but it's not the most common. UCSD cancer specialist Gregory Daniels says 95 percent of skin cancers are non-melanomas, which are easy to spot and do not easily spread. Those more benign cancers are caused by UV rays from the sun. But Dr. Daniels says there is no direct connection between getting a lot of sun and getting melanoma.

He says, in fact, "As the incidence of melanoma has risen it's also paralleled a change in behavior that's going on all across the world, and that is people are working indoors."

Studies show that people who get lots of sun, like farmers, are less likely to get melanoma than office workers. He says this could mean that intense, occasional sun exposure increases the risk of the disease.

Comments

Avatar for user 'LP'

LP | June 5, 2009 at 4:10 p.m. ― 5 years, 3 months ago

I've had melanoma twice. I have fair skin and green eyes. I wear sunscreen at all times during the day and make a good effort to avoid the sun. I hate the feel of sunscreen on my sensitive skin and can't wait to wash it off each evening. I joke that if this melanoma becomes terminal, the first thing I will do is swim in the ocean and get a tan. Dr. Daniels says that there are fewer cases of melanoma diagnosed in summer as opposed to other skin cancers. Maybe that's because melanoma takes longer to incubate and so does not show up right away. It also can show up on areas like the tongue, where the sun does not shine. It would be great to follow Dr. Daniels' theory and enjoy the sun and not spend my time going out dressed like a bee keeper, but what if he's wrong--dead wrong? Why are there more cases of melanoma in Australia and California in light skinned people who are living in sunny areas where the native population is dark-skinned? The sun must play a role for that to happen, even if it works by lowering the immune system.

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Avatar for user 'mariahb'

mariahb | June 7, 2009 at 8:32 p.m. ― 5 years, 3 months ago

I was taught that melanomas were associated with the number of blistering sunburns someone has had. Which makes sense why someone who can tan, and gets regular sun exposure would have less risk. Those fair skinned who rarely venture outside, but when they do burn badly would be more at risk. Even with the "new" theory above, I think this rule of thumb still fits. If you're fair, keep your sunscreen!

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Avatar for user 'tammy'

tammy | June 7, 2009 at 8:43 p.m. ― 5 years, 3 months ago

I believe the rate of melanoma in countries or states such as Australia and California may be higher do to the intense awareness (especialy Australia) campains put on by sunscreen companies, to the point that most white skin people load on the sunscreen so they do not get casual sun exposure. Loading on sunscreen is almost equivalent to staying indoors. I would also wonder if the product itself is the cause. It is interesting to note that Australia has the lowest death rates of melanoma.

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Avatar for user 'sun2go'

sun2go | October 14, 2009 at 11:30 a.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

take a few minutes to see what experts in the field say about it.

This is from a recent seminar in San Diego sponsored by the University of California San Diego

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Avatar for user 'Anonymous915'

Anonymous915 | November 28, 2009 at 10:34 p.m. ― 4 years, 9 months ago

I don't think there has been enough research done on this issue, but I don't believe melanoma has anything to do with the sun; it has more to do with moles. Two people in my family had melanoma, neither of their moles (located on the leg and back) were ever exposed to the sun.
I also believe that regular exposure to the sun prevents melanoma/cancer; melanin provides protection again skin damage from the sun, and the melanocytes increase their production of melanin in response to sun exposure. I have to wonder what role the use of sun block has played in the rise in numbers of cancer, as it interferes in the body's natural line of defense.

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