Study: Melanin Protects Against Skin Cancer

The tropics -- you'd be crazy to spend life indoors.
The tropics — you’d be crazy to spend life indoors.

When they come to Asia, a foreigner from the west will quickly notice the local obsession with making skin white. Whiter. And one very popular method in  is suppressing the production of melanin. Note exhibit one, exhibit two.

A recent study by researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research in Britain confirms (other studies) that melanin is actually beneficial for the skin. Via The Economist: melanin in black skin, by absorbing ultraviolet light which might otherwise damage DNA and cause mutations, protects against skin cancer.
The bottom line? Suppressing the production of melanin is not a good idea, if you are subject to an abundance of UV rays.

Other studies have also supported this finding. The US Center for Disease Control cites the incidence of skin cancer amongst Americans and found that “in 2010, among men, white men had the highest rate of getting melanoma of the skin, followed by American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and black men. Among women, white women had the highest rate of getting melanoma of the skin, followed by Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, and black women”

Granted, much of the melanin suppressants contain sunscreen, so they purport to still protect against UV rays. However, there is an evolutionary reason why we Malays have medium shade skin. Not fair, not negroid. If you are going to go against mother nature, you should probably also change where you live or maybe your lifestyle (and I guess people have, by staying indoors). I for one, will not be going against the evolutionary accomplishments of my ancestors over thousands of years living in the tropics. Melanin? Yes, please!

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