There is no such thing as a sunscreen pill

Protective eyewear from the sun

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to a bonus letters column. You've had us thinking about and researching a fascinating collection of topics, and we're eager to dive right in.

-- With the warmer weather and longer days, we're in peak sunscreen season. We recently heard from a reader wishing for an alternative. "I hate the feel and look of sunscreen, and my husband just forgets to use it," she wrote. "What about these sunscreen pills you see advertised? Are they an option?" The short -- and emphatic -- answer is no! While some companies tout dietary supplements as a so-called sunscreen pill, the claims they make are false. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration issued a statement several years ago warning against these products and ordered the manufacturers to correct their advertising. The only products that protect against sun damage are topical lotions, sprays and creams that contain either minerals that physically block UV rays or specially formulated chemicals that absorb them. If not a fan of sunscreen, you can use hats, clothing and umbrellas to block UV rays.

-- After a column touched on time-restricted eating, we heard from a reader who wondered if it's suitable for her. "Would this approach be safe for someone who is in perimenopause?" she asked. Time-restricted eating refers to the practice of limiting food intake to a set number of hours each day. For instance, eating from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and fasting until the following morning. Because perimenopause involves fluctuating hormone levels, which can be influenced by outside factors, this is an important question. A body of research into this question suggests that time-restricted eating is safe. This includes a study published last fall in the journal Obesity. It looked at premenopausal and postmenopausal women who restricted food intake to windows of four or six hours. After eight weeks, researchers saw no changes to levels of estrogen or testosterone in either group. However, before embarking on any significant change to your dietary habits, please first check with your doctor.

-- A recent column discussed the guidelines for colon cancer screenings, which have recently been updated. This led a reader to inquire about a potential cause of the disease. "Is it possible that stress could be a precursor to colon cancer?" they asked. Chronic stress has emerged as a factor in the occurrence and progression of a number of diseases, including several types of cancer. Stress can drive inflammation, which in turn appears to have a role in colorectal cancers. But the disease has numerous other risk factors as well. These include smoking, being overweight, poor diet, alcohol consumption, being sedentary, the composition of the gut microbiome and genetics. We will take this as an opportunity to remind everyone that, when caught early, colorectal cancers are highly treatable. Please keep up with your screenings.

Is it repetitive to thank you (again!) for your letters? We love hearing your thoughts, appreciate your kind words and take your criticisms to heart. And just a reminder -- we can't provide a diagnosis, offer a second opinion or comment on a specific treatment plan. Please do not send us your personal medical information.

(Send your questions to [email protected], or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o UCLA Health Sciences Media Relations, 10960 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1955, Los Angeles, CA, 90024. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.)

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