Vitamin D and Sun Exposure: Shedding Some Light on The Issue

February 17, 2010

The media and healthcare professionals have highlighted the harms and consequences of exposure to sunlight, however, there are many important benefits to sun exposure as well, which are often overlooked.  Furthermore, sunscreen is often seen as the healthy choice for sun protection, but this also may have harmful consequences that rival those of sun overexposure that people are not aware of.

 

Sunshine is a vital ingredient for staying healthy and is your best source for essential vitamin D. Sunlight also provides you with numerous other health benefits such as fighting depression. In recent studies, vitamin D has been shown to even protect against several types of cancer.  Vitamin D is also important for proper absorption of calcium and in maintaining strong bones.

 

We hear a lot about skin cancer due to overexposure to the sun, but did you know that tens of thousands of North Americans die of cancer and other illnesses every year due to inadequate sun exposure and dire levels of vitamin D? In the U.S., the annual cost of treating illnesses due to the lack of sun exposure hovers around $56 billion – and only $6 billion is spent on treating illnesses due to overexposure to sunlight. Of course, it’s true that the sun can cause cancer when skin is exposed to excess amounts, so it’s important to avoid getting sunburned. But don’t avoid the sun altogether as it is still the best source of vitamin D and is better than taking it in tablets!

 

Most people are aware of the effects of Ultra Violet (UV) rays through painful sunburns, but the UV spectrum has many other effects, both beneficial and detrimental to our health. Darker-skinned people, however, will produce more of the natural skin-protecting substance called ‘eumelanin’, which may offer some protection from the negative effects of UVB and UVA. For starters, it’s important to be UV-knowledgeable; the sun emits ultraviolet radiation in UVA, UVB, and UVC rays and not all rays are created equal. The stratosphere filters out UVC rays, so they are of little concern. UVB rays are responsible for vitamin D production – something your body benefits from. On the downside, UVB rays are also responsible for sunburn and damage to the surface of the skin. These rays cause moles, skin aging and some types of skin cancer. UVB rays only make up a fraction of UV light. Looking at UVA in a “positive light”, these will not cause sunburn but rather a tan and they cause less cancer than UVB rays. UVA rays make up the majority of UV light. Unfortunately, the cancer that UVA rays do cause is the most dangerous – melanoma. It also contributes more to skin aging and DNA damage than UVB rays and often times is less effectively blocked by sunscreens.

 

Skin cancer represents the most commonly diagnosed malignancy, surpassing lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancer. But despite what we have been led to believe, a reasonable amount of sun exposure reduces the risk of skin cancer because of the vitamin D stimulated by skin exposure to sunlight.

 

Another point to take into consideration is that skin cancers have been linked to a large disproportion in the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3. Our North American diets are often much higher in Omega-6 and may place us at a greater risk of developing skin cancer. Increasing your intake of Omega-3 is therefore very important to rebalance your Omega-6 to Omega- 3 ratio.

 

For more information about vitamin D, Omega-3 and Omega-6, as well as more tips for living at your best, check out Dr. Nathalie’s book Wellness On The Go at www.drnathaliebeauchamp.ca.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Breast Health: What is Digital Infrared Thermography?

February 17, 2010

Familiarizing oneself with the various means to detect and diagnosis breast cancer is incredibly important, and will hopefully enable you, or the women in your life, to make more informed decisions when deciding how to go about breast cancer prevention and protection. Though I do not wish to deter you from using Mammography as your prevention method of choice, recent studies have indicated that a single mammogram has 1000 times the radiation of a chest x-ray. Sadly, this has lead to an increase in Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) of 328% since mammography was introduced in 1983. The dangers associated with ionizing radiation also include risks of cell mutations, not to mention the risk of the mechanical pressure on the breast spreading the cells that are already troublesome.

One in every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Though combating cancer is never an easy battle, early detection has the ability to save lives. Within the last decade breast cancer awareness has influenced an increase in the amount of women utilizing the preventative and proactive measures offered by the health care system. The most common of the preventative tools being the Mammogram. Other preventative/diagnostic methods include the self-breast exam, the ultrasound, and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Each of these methods is an adjunctive diagnostic tool, providing varying information: Not one of these methods is 100% accurate. Though I do not wish to discredit any of these breast examination methods, I wish to make you aware of another very effective and comfortable method that may end up detecting “abnormalities” in your breasts even earlier then the other methods.

Digital Infrared Imaging, also referred to as a thermography, is one of the latest technologies being used in the fight against breast cancer. It has the ability to detect or diagnosis breast cancer, as well as numerous other ailments such as fibrocystic disease, vascular disease, and infection. The non-invasive scan, shows the function, the physiology, and the metabolism of breast tissue; giving a clear picture of the functional activity in breast tissue.

According to Medical Thermography International Inc, digital infrared imaging scans provide the earliest evidence of breast disease. The sensitivity rate is 90%. This means in 90% of the cases, the scan accurately indicates a presence or absence of disease. That being said, digital infrared imaging has a 10% false positive rate; in 10% of the cases the results may suggest disease where there is none. In comparison, mammograms have a 25% false positive rate, meaning that in 25% of the cases results suggest disease where there is none. Moreover, 20% of the false negative rates occur in tests conducted on young women, due to the density of the breast tissue of women under 50 years of age. Though thermography may not be perfect, no medical testing method is. One must base their judgment on how the method compares to others.

How exactly does Digital Infrared Imaging work? Well, the scan measures infrared heat from your body and translates that into anatomical images. Usually abnormal cells are hotter because malignant tissue mass is greedy. To feed their rapid growth they produce a chemical that makes new blood vessels grow. This is called angiogenesis. The scan shows the heat difference between normal breast tissue and problem areas. In scientific terms, the normal breast tissue acts as the control against which any hot area are compared. It is important to remember that not all malignancies are hypervascular; that is, a small number do not show increase blood supply. Unless there are other signs, a thermography scan will not detect a non-hypervascular malignancy.

At this point in time you are probably thinking, “Digital Infrared Imaging sounds rather effective! But what exactly does it entail?” All in all there are three stages to the process.

•The first is the preparation stage which lasts around 20 minutes. During this stage you may be asked to fill out a breast history form about symptoms related to possible breast dysfunction and disease. Then, in a private room you will undress to the waist and let your breasts adjust to the cool room temperature (18-22°C). It takes about 10 minutes for the breast temperature to adjust.

•Afterwards, it is time for the Screening stage which lasts about 10 minutes. You will be asked to stand with your hands on your head about 10 feet in front of a digital infrared imaging camera. Three images will be taken: straight-on, and right and left partial side views. After, you will be asked to put both of your hands in cool water (about 10°c) for 1 minute. This is a cold challenge to your blood vessels. Normal blood vessels narrow and gradually become cooler with this challenge while abnormal vessels do not narrow and remain warmer. After the cold challenge, a second series of three scans will be taken to record the changes in the response of the blood vessels to the cold challenge.

•The last stage of the Digital Infrared Imaging process is the report stage. Your scans will be read and analyzed by a member of the American Board of Thermology, and later sent to you in the mail.

Major Benefits of Digital Infrared Imaging… (According to the Medical Thermology International Inc)

Timely Problems can be found before abnormalities are seen with mammograms.

Inclusive Examines the whole chest, breasts, and armpit area

Good for All Ages & Stages Good for all ages: puberty, pregnant, breastfeeding, pre-menopausal years and post-menopausal years

Good for All Breast Types Good for all breast types: dense, pregnant, breastfeeding, fibrocystic, enhanced (implants) and women on oral hormone medication (BCP & HRT)

Painless No squeezing, no pressure, no touching by equipment or technician

Risk-Free No harmful rays emitted, so digital infrared imaging scan can be done as often as needed to monitor breast health and to guide treatment

Risk Indicator Digital infrared imaging results are a better indicator of future breast disease, than a family history of disease

As previously mentioned thermography is not perfect—But what medical test is? The goal of this article was to make you aware of the existence and efficiency of Digital Infrared Thermography, an alternative that is little mentioned in popular society. Unfortunately, the method is not yet covered by our health care system. Though you may not have the financial means to obtain a thermography, getting tested for breast cancer is vital for the assurance of ongoing health and wellness. Your health is, ultimately, in your hands—make sure that whatever breast health method you decide to use is right for you! References: 1. http://www.mercola.com 2. Breast Health, A new approach to breast screening unsin digital infrared imaging – http://www.medthermoline.com