Walking in the sun

Out of the 4 seasons of the year, most of us look forward to summer the most with the promise of BBQ’s, picnics and spending time outdoors going for long walks in the sunshine to walk of those extra calories.

But have you ever thought that by putting yourself through that brisk walk, you may be helping to keep certain cancers at bay? It’s strange, but some researchers at the World Cancer Research Fund believe that the risk of breast, bowel and prostate cancers can be greatly decreased by performing rigorous household chores or doing a brisk walk.

See these news articles for more information:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/7971644/Brisk-walking-could-prevent-10000-cancers-a-year.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1307574/Get-walking-prevent-10-000-cases-cancer.html
But it’s not just about being active that is importnat for cancer prevention, it’s also about keeping yourself fit and maintaining a healthy weight. For a look at most of the risk factors involved in causing cancer, go to: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/causes

Now, back to that sunshine we were talking about earlier. When you let your skin tingle with the warm sun rays, do you think about how much of the sunlight you should get and how much is harmful? Definitely not. However, getting the balance right between sun exposure and skin cancer is extremely important.

We need a certain amount of exposure to sunlight in order to produce vitamin D, which is essential for strong bones and a healthy immune system. Vitamin D deficiency can result in lower bone mineral density and an increased risk of bone loss (osteoporosis) or bone fracture because that lack of vitamin D has a negative effect on mineral metabolism in the body. However, long term exposure to the sun has been widely linked to most forms of skin cancer. The ultraviolet light in sunlight damages the DNA in the skin cells. This damage can happen years before a cancer develops. The sun’s rays contain 3 types of ultraviolet light:

1. UVA makes up most of our natural sunlight and causes skin ageing

2. UVB is what makes the sun burn the skin and is the main cause of non-melanoma skin cancer

3. UVC is mostly filtered out by the earth’s atmosphere

The evidence indicates that the production of vitamin D from sun exposure works in a feedback loop that prevents toxicity, but because of uncertainty about the cancer risk from sunlight, no recommendations are issued by the Institute of Medicine for the amount of sun exposure required to meet vitamin D requirements.

This just shows that you can’t be too careful. Enjoy the sunshine but stay safe and remember to apply a high-factor sunscreen (minimum SPF 15) regularly, stick to the shade between 11am and 3pm, cover up with clothes and drink plenty of water.

Looking at the various risk factors of cancer and their effects could be the job of:

  • clinical oncologist concerned with the diagnoses, treatment and management of all types of cancer
  • children’s cancer nurse providing constant care and supporting each patient and their family throughout their care
  • scientific researcher in bone health carrying out in-depth study into bone and mineral metabolism
  • clinical research associate setting up and monitoring clinical trials to increase scientific knowledge of cancer
  • biostatistician analysing data from patients using mathematical models
  • palliative care physician coordinating the care between a number of different specialists to provide the best treatment for the patient
  • radiographer specialising in cancer treatment through the use of high doses of radiation
  • pathologist studying the causes and detection of cancer
  • haematologist studying the blood and blood-related disorders in specialist hospital departments
  • communications manager making information on cancer facts and figures available to patients, staff and the public, as well as providing funding and support