UV rays

  1. Step into the sun

    Despite what you've heard, the only protection from the sun your skin really needs is a little common sense.

    That might sound positively self-destructive here in the age of sunscreen. I've even seen adults slap on a thick layer of the stuff before a two-minute walk across a parking lot.

    But the truth is, those chemical-based skin creams can do a lot more harm than good -- and a new study uncovers one more way they can hurt: They stop your skin from sensing and responding to sunlight.

    Researchers have found that your skin is loaded with something called rhodopsin, the light receptor in your eyeballs that helps you to see in the dark. In your skin, however, it appears to play a much different role: It helps your body to "see" the UV rays of the sun.

    And when it senses that sunlight, your body begins churning out melanin, a natural pigment that helps protect you from potentially damaging UV rays.

    Scientists have always known the body can make its own melanin, of course -- melanin is what gives you a tan in the summer.

    But until now, they believed the process took days to unfold.

    The new study shows that melanin production actually begins almost immediately thanks to those light receptors -- or, at least, it would begin immediately under natural circumstances.

    If you cover yourself in sunscreen, though, the light receptors never "see" the UV rays, and melanin production never begins.

    That could ultimately leave your skin more exposed to potential damage than ever -- and all because you didn't want to walk across the parking lot without "protection" from the sun.

    The researchers were quick to add that they hope their discovery will lead to new and better sunscreens -- and that no one should use the study as an excuse to avoid wearing the stuff that's out there now.

    They're partially right -- because you don't need to use this study as an excuse to avoid sunscreen.

    There are plenty of other good reasons -- starting with the fact that many of them contain a form of vitamin A that's been proven by government scientists to help speed the growth of skin tumors.

    Common sunscreens -- even the ones with natural-sounding names -- are also loaded with hormone-blocking chemicals and free radicals that can do more damage to your skin cells than sunlight ever will.

    Believe me, you want nothing to do with this stuff.

    Like I said earlier, the best protection is a little common sense: Seek shade before you get too much sun, or at least add a hat and a layer of clothes instead of a layer of chemicals.

  2. Study touts coffee as cancer fighter… but there’s a catch

    by Dr. Alan Inglis

    In my experience, people who drink coffee regularly don’t really need an excuse to do it. It’s as much part of their daily routines as showering or brushing their teeth.

    But the coffee lovers of the world seemed to latch on to a new study that showed caffeine may be able to kill skin cancer cells. According to the research, which was published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, caffeine has the ability to target and kill abnormal cells that have been damaged by UV rays. Meanwhile, it leaves healthy cells alone.

    It seems like everyone wants to turn caffeine into the next wonder drug… there’s even been research showing it can help ward off Alzheimer’s.

    But before you start calling your daily run to Starbucks part of your “health routine,” there’s more you need to know about this cancer study. According to researchers, you’d have to drink six cups of coffee a day for years to experience a 30 percent reduction in your cancer risk – about 5 percent for every cup.

    I don’t know if six cups of coffee will really keep you from getting skin cancer or not… I do know it will probably keep you from sleeping, and could even have damaging effects on your heart.

    My advice is to take this research with a grain of salt… and take your coffee in moderation. A couple cups a day is fine, but give it a rest after noon.

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