Melanoma caused by mistaken medical beliefs

We now know what caused the increase in deadly melanoma skin cancer observed in recent decades. It was not due to sun exposure. It was not due to “sunscreen deficiency.” And it was not due to anything that adults do at all, in the sun, without their clothes on. (Wouldn’t you know it, French scientists discovered this huge breakthrough!)

This new French statistical analysis clearly links the rise in melanoma death rates to an outdated medical practice used during the 20th century. This practice, which involved exposing children to extensive ultraviolet radiation for supposed health benefits, caused the spike in melanoma rates we now see in older adults.

This news is huge.

It shatters all the theories about sun exposure and the one truly deadly form of skin cancer.

But it barely made a blip in the lamestream news last month. In fact, a quick search of “melanoma causes” on Google doesn’t even turn up the original French study.

History of melanoma

Until the early 1900s, medical doctors and researchers rarely listed melanoma as a cause of death. Suddenly, during the 1950s to 1980s, we saw a dramatic increase in melanoma among lighter-pigmented populations.

In the 2000s, melanoma death rates are still increasing among people ages 70 years or older.


They are flattening out among people 50 to 69 years. And decreasing in people younger than 50.

The French analysis explains this unusual pattern.

Higher rates in older age cohorts stem from outdated medical practice

The higher melanoma rates in the older age groups correspond precisely to those same cohorts that received the toxic ultraviolet medical treatments as children, from 1920 to 1950, before this medical practice finally fell out of favor. Now, as adults, they are the older age group with excess melanoma deaths.

Up until the 1950s, these archaic UV treatments involved exposing young children to strong ultraviolet light. Children, from babies to school age, were undressed and exposed to active, intense, artificial UV rays on most of the skin surface.

Carbon arc and quartz mercury lamps delivered the ultraviolet light. The children wore goggles to protect the eyes, but they had no other barrier protection of the skin. At the time, there was complete ignorance of the cancer-causing effects of strong ultraviolet light.

By 1920, droves of light-pigmented children received the therapy in the belief that it would be beneficial. (At this same time, scientists learned that ultraviolet B is essential for synthesis of vitamin D in the skin.) It was also observed that UV, as well as sunlight, healed skin wounds and could be bactericidal, so doctors used it on TB patients. In addition, parents bought UV lamps for use on children at home. It became a huge commercial enterprise for hospitals, medical clinics, and home use.

By the 1950s, this practice began to fall out of favor. Hence, the drop in melanoma rates in the people now ages 69 and younger.

After the 1950s, young people, and people of all ages, began to get more and more natural sun exposure on more and more parts of the body (especially for women).  So the melanoma deaths later in life are now plunging in middle-aged people who got more natural sun exposure on the skin, both as children and adults, but got no ultraviolet medical treatments when they were children.

Indeed, as the French analysis shows, melanoma rates are now dropping as the scantily-clad, sun-exposed generations get older.

Scientists share the startling, new science — but is anyone listening?

Scientists at the International Prevention Research Institute in Lyons, France, conducted the analysis. They presented their findings at the first European Cancer Organization Congress in Amsterdam in January 2017.

“Our findings clearly show that most of the death toll due to melanoma has been caused by medically backed exposures to highly carcinogenic UV radiation between 1900 and 1960,” said Dr. Philippe Autier.

If you’re over 70 and were exposed to these medical UV light treatments as a child, make sure to check your skin and get regular skin examinations from your doctor. Staying out of the sun now is too late. It’s like locking the barn door after the horse is out. (And the wrong end of the horses have been running the show when it comes to skin cancer for too long.)

Some sun exposure is healthy and beneficial

I found it baffling that the French researchers gratuitously added the knee-jerk observation that children should still avoid natural sunlight because it naturally contains some ultraviolet light. However, their research and data have nothing to do with any evidence regarding natural sunlight!

In fact, as I pointed out above, their research shows that natural sun exposure could not be the factor. Because age groups that had more exposure to natural sunlight, throughout their lives, are not the groups who have higher risks of melanoma — since they did not receive artificial ultraviolet therapy during childhood.

I have reported before how government health experts during the 1940s and 1950s recommended children go outside and get healthy exposure to natural sunlight for vitamin D and other benefits, which was associated with lower rates of chronic diseases, including multiple sclerosis. There was no such thing as sunscreen.

Then the world of dermatology turned photophobic. But this abrupt flip-flop goes against the science.

Research links higher vitamin D (as results from healthy sun exposure) with lower risks of cancer, including skin cancer. Plus, even among patients diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer, research links higher vitamin D levels with smaller, less invasive tumors.

Doctors now know the enemy, when it comes to skin cancer, and it is them. They are also the enemy when it comes to contributing to a real, modern epidemic of vitamin D deficiency.

You can keep your vitamin D levels up by getting some healthy sun exposure, in most parts of the country, from March to October.

As always, I also advise you to take 10,000 IU of vitamin D daily, year-round. You can get vitamin D in convenient liquid form. (You can also find it in combination with astaxanthin, a potent marine carotenoid that has many health benefits, especially for the eyes, as you get older.)

Stop drinking the sun avoidance and sunscreen Kool-Aid. And get outside for some healthy sun exposure.


“Current Melanoma Epidemic Caused by Old Medical Beliefs,” European Cancer Organization (ECCO) Congress 2017. Abstract 1201. Poster presented January 28, 2017; oral abstract 1144 presented January 29, 2017