Stay safe in the sun this summer

I intended to write this article on the first day of summer. But as I sat on my sun-kissed desk in California, a place known for its warm, dry summers, opal sky and scantily-clad liberals, I figured I better check the weather in London before continuing. With a few weeks of drizzle and clouds, it seems that summer in London is finally on the horizon.

The following are some of the health benefits that exposure to sunlight can bring, including tips to stay safe.

Whereas exposure to excessive levels of sunlight is detrimental to our health, moderate exposure can boost our physical and mental state. The aim is to enjoy the sun sensibly, to make enough vitamin D, while not increasing the risk of skin cancer.

 

HEALTH BENEFITS

 

1) Improves the quality of sleep

Waking up in sync with the sun’s natural light switches off melatonin, a hormone made in your pineal gland, associated with sleep onset. This is the reason why you feel alert during your waking hours and tired at bedtime – and discombobulated when you cross time zones after a long-haul flight. It is, therefore, a good idea to open the curtains in the morning and avoid artificial light once the sun goes down.

People with irregular sleeping schedules often have trouble sleeping or feel tired during waking hours. Several studies have shown that chronic disruption of circadian rhythms can lead to weight gain, slower thinking, and other physiological and behavioural changes – analogous to the changes observed in people who experience shift work or jet lag.

 

2) Reduces risk of some cancers

Prolonged sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer, but vitamin D is also known to be protective against several cancers, including of the colon, kidney and breast. In a study conducted by the US National Cancer Institute, it was found that high levels of sunlight were significantly associated with reduced mortality from breast and colon cancer. Similar effects were seen in the bladder, womb, oesophagus and stomach cancer.

 

3) Improves mood

Sunlight triggers the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood. It’s no surprise that spending time outdoors improves mood and relieves stress. Lack of sunlight exposure in some people can even trigger a type of depression known as a seasonal affective disorder, which is treated with light therapy.

 

4) Lowers blood pressure

Rates of hypertension tend to be higher in the winter and in countries farther from the equator. A possible explanation is that exposure to sunlight causes nitric oxide in the skin to be absorbed into the bloodstream, which can help widen blood vessels and lower the pressure inside them.

 

5) Can help with some skin disorders

Sunlight can improve several skin complaints, such as psoriasis, eczema and acne. Indeed, eczema and psoriasis are sometimes treated with UV light (phototherapy). However, sunlight can aggravate other skin conditions, particularly rosacea.

 

6) Improves the musculoskeletal system

It is common knowledge that vitamin D is important for healthy bones by helping the body absorb calcium. In a 2013 large Danish study, researchers found that having a history of skin cancer was linked to a lower risk of hip fractures. This may be because those who developed skin cancer also had prolonged sun exposure.

Vitamin D is also important to muscle health, and people with low levels are more likely to experience muscle cramps and joint pain.

 

TIPS TO STAY SAFE

 

There are of course risks associated with sunlight. Prolonged exposure causes damage to the epidermis and to other parts of the skin such as the supporting elastic tissue in the dermis. This damage is known as actinic (solar) elastosis, and gives the skin a baggy, wrinkled appearance. A significant risk factor for malignant melanoma is sunburn, especially during childhood.

 

1) Duration

One of the major benefits of basking in the sun is to make vitamin D, which is useful because there is very little found in typical dietary sources. To prevent deficiency of vitamin D, it is recommended to have 2-3 sun exposures per week. Each exposure should last 20-30 minutes and be to bare skin.

 

2) Stay hydrated

Aim to drink more than the standard eight glasses a day. And get creative: put some frozen berries in your water or even some mint leaves and lime slices. Opt for snacks with high-water content such as watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes and cucumbers.

 

3) Wear sunscreen

Look for at least an SPF 30 and wear it when you know you’ll be out and about during the day. Wear sunscreens with both UVA and UVB protection. Blocking UVB may prevent burning (which is what the SPF number indicates), but UVA still delivers skin-damaging radiation (and isn’t rated).

 

CONCLUSION

To summarise, try to have 2-3 sun exposures per week, but avoid the sun when it is strong; and when you think you’re exceeding the recommended limit, cover up, or use high-factor sunscreen.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are nearly 10 million new cases of
HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, the body's defence against infectious organisms
Obesity is a very important public health problem. The rates are now very high, with

Red meat intake linked with higher risk of death in study of 81,469 adults

Increased red meat intake — especially processed red meat — is tied to increased risk of death over 8 years, according to results today in the British Medical Journal.

Results also suggested that substituting red meat with healthier alternatives, such as whole grains or vegetables, may lower the risk for death.

 

Making sense of the beef with red meat

This long-term study provides further evidence that reducing red meat intake while eating other protein foods or more whole grains and vegetables may reduce risk of premature death.

Red meat, especially processed meat, contains saturated fat, high levels of sodium, preservatives, and potential carcinogens that can contribute to health problems.

Eating red meat has been tied to increased risk for chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Processed red meat, like hot dogs and bacon, has been linked to an even larger number of health problems, as well as increased risk for death.

 

Study details

The authors of the study analysed data from two prospective US cohort studies: the Nurses’ Health Study (53,553 women) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (27,916 men). Participants were free from cardiovascular disease or cancer at baseline.

An important factor in the study is that the researchers looked at the change in consumption over time, rather than actual intake of red meat.

After adjusting for age, race, smoking, alcohol consumption, and several other factors, including baseline red meat consumption, the researchers found that increasing total red meat consumption by up to 3.5 servings per week over 8 years was linked to 10% higher risk for death compared with no change in red meat consumption.

When they distinguished between processed and unprocessed red meat, they found a similar trend, with the risk associated with processed meat higher than that for unprocessed meat. Specifically, increased consumption of processed red meat by up to 3.5 servings per week was tied to 13% increased risk for death, whereas the same increase in unprocessed red meat consumption was tied to 9% increased risk for death.

Results were similar regardless of age, physical activity level, diet quality, smoking, and alcohol consumption. Results were also similar with 4- and 12-year changes in consumption.

Risk for death decreased when one serving per day of red meat was replaced with one serving per day of nuts, whole grains, vegetables without legumes, dairy, eggs, and legumes.

 

Consistent with previous data

During the past decade, much has been written on diet and the association with cancer risk. A number of studies have found varying associations between the consumption of red meat and cancer.

In a recent study, published this year in the International Journal of Epidemiology, authors found that consuming a moderate amount of red or processed meat is associated with an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer.

According to their findings, an average of 76 grams of red meat or processed meat a day, which is in line with current government recommendations from the United Kingdom, was associated with a 20% higher chance of developing colorectal cancer as compared to consuming only about 21 grams a day.

The primary dataset used in this study is the UK Biobank cohort, comprised of almost 500,000 participants.

The American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund published several reports during the past 10 years or so on the effect of diet, nutrition, and/or physical activity on risk for several cancer types.

Their most recent study, published in 2017, found that consuming red meat and processed meat may increase the risk for colorectal cancer, as may drinking two or more alcoholic beverages per day. On the flip side, eating whole grains daily and ramping up activity levels can reduce the risk.

 

Conclusion

It is becoming increasingly clear that replacing meat with healthy plant based foods, such as vegetables or whole grains, can improve longevity.

But the health benefits of keeping meat of the menu is only one side of the issue. For conscience-stricken individuals, it is the colossal death and destruction caused by animal agriculture that makes meat unpalatable.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
A new large-scale Danish study concluded that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine does
Researchers from UK and Canada carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis that measured cannabis
Observational studies and clinical trials conducted over nearly 40 years reveal the health benefits of

Eating more fibre and whole grains lowers risk of death and disease, major study finds

Observational studies and clinical trials conducted over nearly 40 years reveal the health benefits of eating at least 25g or more of dietary fibre a day, according to research commissioned by the World Health Organization.

 

People who had higher intakes of dietary fibre and whole grains had lower rates of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, compared to those with diets low in fibre and whole grains.

 

Main findings

Current UK guidelines recommend that people eat 30g a day, yet only 9 per cent of British adults meet the target. Fibre consumption is even worse in the US, with the average adult eating just 15g of fibre a day.

 

Higher fibre diets were associated with a 15 to 31 percent reduction in the risk of death and disease. That meant 13 fewer deaths and six fewer cases of coronary heart disease, per 1,000 participants in the studies.

 

People with diets high in whole grains saw similar benefits, with up to 33 percent reduction in risk, translating to 26 fewer deaths and seven fewer cases of coronary heart disease.

 

The study, published in The Lancet, one of the most prestigious and oldest medical journals, suggests eating at least 25 to 29 grams of dietary fibre per day to achieve these health benefits. Higher intakes could produce more benefits; however, the authors note that consuming copious amounts of it could have ill-effects for people with low iron or mineral levels.

 

The research consisted of analysing 185 observational studies and 58 clinical trials that were conducted over nearly 40 years.

 

The importance

This landmark study is important and timely because the Internet is a wasteland of deranged dietary advice. Quack ‘doctors’, self-proclaimed nutritionists, and – excuse my French – broscience baloney have infiltrated forums, social media and YouTube. In particular, there is a growing trend advocating the carnivore diet. This consists of consuming only animal foods. No fruits. No vegetables. But all the burgers, steaks and pork chops you want, which are often eaten raw by enthusiasts.

 

This dangerous and stupid dietary advice is gaining popularity, despite it being diametrically opposed to the robust, high quality empirical evidence that continues to emerge in the scientific literature.

 

Supporting evidence

For instance, another recent study, also published in The Lancet, showed that Tsimane people (forager-horticulturalist population of the Bolivian Amazon) have the lowest reported levels of vascular ageing of all populations yet studied. It turns out that their diet is largely carbohydrate-based (72%) and includes high fibre foods such as rice, plantain, corn, nuts and fruits. Protein constitutes only 14% of their diet, and they consume very low levels of fat. So much for the carnivore diet.

 

Conclusion

In summary, recent studies confirm that fibre and whole grain intakes are vitally important for longer term health. If your current diet is low in fibre, increase it gradually to help avoid bowel upset.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Increased red meat intake — especially processed red meat — is tied to increased risk
A new large-scale Danish study concluded that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine does
Researchers from UK and Canada carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis that measured cannabis
childhood-boy-child-Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Go Gold Through Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

The internationally recognised symbol for childhood cancer is the gold ribbon. During Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (CCAM) each September, people ‘Go Gold’ and raise awareness of the need for more research that leads to safer treatments and cures. The following are some facts and figures for childhood cancers and some suggestions on what you can do to help raise awareness.

child-cancer

Incidence

4,000 children and young people are diagnosed with cancer every year in the UK. That’s ten every day. In children under 14, the incidence is rare – around 1,600 new cases are diagnosed every year in the UK. This means that around one child in 500 will develop some form of cancer by the age of 14 years.

 

Different types

Tumours that affect children are in two major groups. The first is the leukaemia, which are cancers of the blood and bone marrow. The second is the ‘solid’ tumours; the most commonly affected area is the child’s central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).

The most common type of childhood cancer is a type of leukaemia, known as acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). Normally the bone marrow makes stem cells that mature into blood cells over time. In ALL, too many stem cells turn into immature white blood cells (lymphoblasts) that don’t mature into the normal blood cells (lymphocytes) that fight infection by attacking germs and other harmful bacteria.

The most common solid tumours of childhood affect the brain and spinal cord, and they have the highest mortality rate of the childhood cancers. Types include medulloblastoma, PNET, germ cell tumours, low-grade and high-grade gliomas, ependymoma, and astrocytoma.

 

Survival

Choosing optimal chemotherapy is no longer done by the oncologist alone, but by a large team of oncologists, pharmacists, cell biologists, and trial coordinators, who analyse the results from previous attempts to treat cancers and alter regimens accordingly. New developments are tested in large-scale multicentre trials, which most oncology patients are enrolled into. In this way, there has been a dramatic improvement in the outcome for most childhood and adult cancers over the last 20 years.

Fifty years ago, 75% of children diagnosed with cancer died; today the average five-year survival rate across all childhood cancer types is 82%. However, survival rates vary considerably between different types of childhood cancer and by age and gender. For e.g., the survival rate for retinoblastoma (eye cancer) has now reached 100%. For ALL it is 92%. Brain and spinal cord tumours have an overall survival rate of 75%. However, because brain tumours are one of the most common types of cancer, it accounts for more than a third of all childhood cancer deaths.

 

Causes

The causes of most childhood cancers are not known. About 5% of all cancers in children are caused by an inherited genetic mutation (a mutation that can be passed from parents to their children). For e.g., around 30% of cases of retinoblastoma are caused by an inherited mutation in a gene called RB1. But this explains little about the overall aetiology as retinoblastoma accounts for only about 4% of all cancers in children.

Most cancers are thought to develop because of mutations in genes that lead to uncontrolled cell growth. If the mutations are not inherited, they can arise spontaneously in an individual (de novo). These gene mutations can be the result of exposure to environmental factors. But in children, these environmental risk factors have been proven difficult to identify. Several studies have shown that exposure to ionizing radiation can damage DNA, which can lead to cancer. Genetic mutations that initiate cancer development can also arise during the development of a fetus in the womb. Parental exposure to cancer-causing chemicals or x-rays could be a catalyst for this.

Mutations in DNA repair pathways have been implicated in the production of chromosomal translocations. The Philadelphia chromosome is a specific genetic abnormality found in approximately 30% of adult ALL cases and 10% of paediatric ALL cases. It is a mutated form of chromosome 22 resulting from a translocation with chromosome 9. The mix of genetic material causes the ABL1 gene of chromosome 9 to combine with the BCR gene of chromosome 22, resulting in the fusion gene BCR-ABL1. The resulting BCR-ABL1 protein is a tyrosine kinase signalling protein that is constitutively active (i.e. always switched on) and rapidly drives cell proliferation.

Clearly, more work needs to be done to identify the causes of childhood cancers, which would help to develop novel therapeutic modalities.

 

Be bold and go gold

This article will have hopefully familiarised you with some facts and figures about childhood cancer. There are plenty of resources online if you feel inclined to delve deeper.

One way to show kids with cancer that they are not alone is to do something brave and bold. Shave Your Lid for a Kid and join the growing movement of everyday heroes standing in solidarity with the kids who need it the most.

More modestly, you can help raise awareness by wearing a gold ribbon, which is the official symbol for CCAM. And of course, to help drive research forward you can fundraise. From bike-a-thons to golf tournaments and everything in between, hosting a fundraiser is a great way to raise awareness.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Increased red meat intake — especially processed red meat — is tied to increased risk
A new large-scale Danish study concluded that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine does
Researchers from UK and Canada carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis that measured cannabis