Two studies in the Feb. 2 issue of Journal of the National Cancer Institute are throwing new light—and heat—on the sun/cancer connection. It seems that the presently shunned rays of the sun actually may be cancer-protective, not cancer-causing.
Lead researcher Marianne Berwick of the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, and researchers ranging from Sydney, Australia, to New York, found that people with measurable sun damage to their skin had a 50 percent lower chance of dying from malignant melanoma. Melanoma is the eighth-most common form of cancer, and incidence of it is growing at a faster rate than any other cancer.
The second study found that a history of high-ultraviolet radiation exposure was associated with a reduced risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. "A high frequency of sunbathing and sunburns at age 20 years and 5 to 10 years before the interview ? were associated with 30 percent to 40 percent reduced risks of non-Hodgkin lymphoma," concluded the researchers based in Sweden. Further, they found that the higher exposure, the lesser the risk.
In the journal's accompanying editorial, the authors noted "that sunlight exposure, particularly as it relates to the vitamin D synthesized in the skin under the influence of solar radiation, might have a beneficial influence for certain cancers."
Moving down the alphabet, it appears that low vitamin E levels may be associated with the symptoms of major depression, according to an article in the February issue of European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers at the University of Wollongong, Australia, found that blood levels of vitamin E in 49 adults with major depression were significantly lower "than has previously been reported for healthy Australians." They concluded that this was true in spite of the fact that "diet analysis indicated that 89 percent of subjects met or exceeded the recommended intake for vitamin E."
Moving away from vitamins and into hormones, researchers writing in February's Archives Of General Psychiatry concluded that DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is an "effective treatment for midlife-onset major and minor depression." Twenty-three men and 23 women ages 45 to 65 years old received six weeks of DHEA therapy, 90 mg per day for three weeks, followed by 450 mg per day for three weeks. When compared with a group receiving six weeks of placebo, a 50 percent or greater reduction in depression symptoms was found in 23 members of the DHEA group but in only 13 of the placebo group. The researchers also found that DHEA treatment was associated with "significant improvements" in diagnostic sexual functioning test scores.