Talking Points

Talking Points

Could the sun be good for your health?

December 11, 2014 at 10:09 pm

Could the sun be good for your health?


Wouldn’t it be wonderful if sunbathing was good for your health with no risk attached?


Some people seem to be suggesting exactly that. The evidence for this has mainly come from Scandinavian cohort studies. For instance, a large study carried out in Sweden looked at over 38,000 women aged 30 to 49. This produced some interesting results. Those with higher levels of natural sun exposure during sunbathing holidays had lower all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality implying that sun exposure is good for some aspects of your health. This did not seem to be related to skin type or vitamin D intake, which has often been cited as one of the benefits of sun exposure.


It was also found that sunbeds are associated with higher all-cause mortality and cancer mortality, emphasising previous reports that sunbeds are best avoided for a number of reasons.


However there were some unusual, unexplained findings that also arose from this study. For instance women whose skin turned dark brown after prolonged sun exposure had an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.




So how should we interpret these results? It would be very convenient for many of us if we could conclude that this study and other similar ones imply that we should all be exposing ourselves to the sun for the benefit of our general wellbeing. However the authors themselves outline the limitations of the study. There are many risk factors for cancer and cardiovascular disease that were not included in their analysis. For instance, it could be possible that those travelling to foreign parts for holidays got more exercise and had better diets.


Although we can try to guess the reasons why these results have occurred it will be a while before we can say with certainty whether or not we should be advising people to get more sun. The link between sin and skin cancer is not in question.


It must also be emphasised that children and those at high risk of skin cancer should continue to protect themselves from the sun.


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