A conventional medical doctor will tell you to slather yourself with sunscreen before spending time outdoors. That's because the incidence of skin cancer continues to increase. In the United States alone, melanoma is now diagnosed in 77,000 people every year. This is the most deadly form of skin cancer, and it's very difficult to treat once it spreads.
However, an alternative practitioner will advise you to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. Let yourself get a tan a little because the sun is good for you. Exposure to sunlight is how our body creates Vitamin D, a nutrient that's critically essential to maintaining good health.
So what are we to do, and which side are we to believe, given the fact that melanoma is on the rise but, without sunlight, we may not have adequate levels of this essential nutrient?
A Meeting of the Minds
The mainstream and alternative medical communities are in agreement on one thing, though. Lack of Vitamin D is bad for you. Severe deficiencies can cause a bone disease called rickets, something now rarely seen in the developing world. This condition results in soft, fragile bones that break easily.
But you don't need to have a full-blown case of rickets to suffer from a variety of health problems. Lower blood levels of this vitamin have been linked to a number of serious conditions, including cancer, multiple sclerosis and depression. There is also strong evidence that too little Vitamin D can result in increased inflammation, the root cause of many health problems.
One study published in 2010, which appeared in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that the likelihood of developing rheumatoid arthritis depended partly upon geographic location. Women who lived in New England, where it's cold and overcast for much of the year, were more likely to become arthritic, compared with women who live in sunnier climates.
The Breast Cancer Connection
The connection between insufficient levels of Vitamin D and breast cancer is very well studied. In fact, there is a lot of evidence that this vitamin can offset the development of a disease that kills nearly 40,000 women in America every year. So it behooves us to make sure we have adequate amounts of this nutrient.
The mainstream medical community is also concerned about the health effects of not having enough of this nutrient. In fact, many insurance companies will now pay for periodic screenings to ensure your levels are sufficient. Deficiencies are quite common during the winter months in cold climates, especially among darker-skinned people who require higher levels of Vitamin D.
Alternative practitioners, such as Dr. Joseph Mercola, DO, explain the risks of being deficient in this widely studied vitamin. He also notes that lower than normals levels have been linked to more than a dozen different types of cancer.
Dr. Mercola cites a study in which a researcher from the University of San Diego found that Vitamin D makes the cellular structure of breast cancer break down. This vitamin is so important in preventing breast cancer that developing the disease may be a direct indication you don't have enough of it, he notes.
He recommends having your blood level of Vitamin D tested, so you know where you stand. As an alternative practitioner, Dr. Mercola is a big fan of sunlight, which people have been exposing themselves to for centuries.