Is the sun good for you after all?
In the last decades we have been warned again and again about the damaging rays of the sun. The results of these warnings are now becoming evident as new research is starting to show harmful effects of not getting enough sun exposure. A new study in Sweden performed by scientists at the Karolinska and Lund University in Sweden shows that women who avoid sun exposure have a two-fold higher mortality rate compared to the ones that enjoy the highest sun exposure. The study followed 30.000 women over a 20 year period.
We all know that our bodies get vitamin D from the sun, but recent research by dermatologist Richard Weller and his team suggests that sunlight may confer another surprising benefit. The research shows that nitric oxide, a chemical transmitter stored in huge reserves in the skin, can be released by UV light. This chemical transmitter seems to be of great benefit for blood pressure and the cardiovascular system. The team goes as far as to say that they even suspect that the benefits to heart health of sunlight outweigh the risk of skin cancer.
In April 2012 a Norwegian study lead by Johan Moan was published in the journal of Public Health Nutrition . The conclusions of that study were that the overall health benefits of an improved vitamin D status gained from moderate sun exposure may be more important than the possibly increased skin cancer (CMM) risk. To use the words of Johan Moan herself; “It can be estimated that increased sun exposure to the Norwegian population might at worst result in 200-300 more CMM deaths per year, but it would elevate the vitamin D status by about 25 nmol/l (nanomoles per liter) and might result in 4,000 fewer internal cancers and about 3,000 fewer cancer deaths overall.”
Once again we are reminded of the fact that extremes are to be avoided and that sun exposure is like most things beneficial in moderation. We all know that sunburn can be harmful but allowing the skin to be exposed to the sun in moderate levels seems to be essential for our health. This should not come as a surprise since most living creatures need some amount of sunlight for survival. Are we also forgetting another possible culprit for skin cancer, i.e. the chemicals contained in sunscreen that we lather on our skin to protect us from the damaging rays of the sun? Isn’t the sun good for you in modesty like everything else?