Through many years of having the message drummed home that sun exposure equals high skin cancer risk, we have become obsessed with avoiding the sun and lathering ourselves with sunscreen lotion which protects us.
It is incredibly disconcerting to discover that this advice may actually be the very thing which has raised incidences of cancer, and not just skin cancer, worldwide.
If your reaction at this point matches mine at the time then you will be tempted to read no further. I’m glad that my curiosity overcame my cynicism or I would never have discovered that the medical and scientific evidence is not just convincing but overwhelming.
Sunbathing – Good or Bad?
Vitamin D is essential to humans but only relatively recently, in the 1980s, was it discovered just how essential through the part it plays in human cell health.
Most vitamins, minerals and nutrients can be obtained through a wide variety of food sources but vitamin D is a little different. We can source vitamin D in very low levels through our diet but vitamin D is mainly synthesized through the body’s exposure to sunlight and, more specifically, UVB rays.
Can Sunbathing Cause Skin Cancer?
Increasingly, a large number of scientific studies and their subsequent reports are surfacing with findings that turn all previous thinking, regarding sun exposure and the link with cancer, on its head.
The many times over, statistically backed reports, are finding that low levels of vitamin D and high incidences of cancer are linked.
Many of these reports, such as that of the ‘Journal of the National Cancer Institute’ can be viewed publicly, including an on-line version. This journal, part of the Oxford journals of Oxford University, England, is an internationally acclaimed publication, widely recognized as the most up to date source for news in the field of cancer research and treatment. It has centers in the UK, the USA and Japan.
Copyright laws do not allow me to quote directly from the report but it should be read by anyone with doubts – jnci.oxfordjournals.org (volume 98, issue 7)
Many other studies support these findings including one from Norway which researched the following – those diagnosed with cancer during autumn and summer months when vitamin D levels in the body were at their highest, had a far better chance of survival from their prospective cancers than those diagnosed when vitamin D levels were lower, in the months with less or no sunlight.
Another report from Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego states that hundreds of thousands of cases of cancer could be prevented on an annual basis by sunlight exposure and subsequent raised levels of vitamin D.
Many cancers have been indicated in these studies including breast cancer and colon cancer, two very commonly occurring cancers.
The implications are obvious – by avoiding sunlight and blocking exposure with sunscreen we are actually raising our chances of developing cancer.
Additionally, there are actually reported cases of skin cancer being cured through exposure to the sun; a far cry from all that we have previously been taught that sunbathing is dangerous.
Healthy Sunbathing Tips
There is no change to the advice that burning our skin is bad for us and those repeatedly doing so will be exposing themselves to cancer risks.
However, we have previously been told that we should avoid sun exposure during the hours of 10 am to 2 pm. The most up to date thinking suggests totally the opposite. In order for our body to synthesize vitamin D we need exposure to UVB rays.
In latitudes removed from the equator, UVB is only present during the midday hours and even then won’t penetrate cloud, fog or smog. Exposure before 10 am and after 2 pm will cause burning from UVA rays before we obtain the benefit of raised vitamin D levels through UVB exposure.
The suggestion is that we require 1000 units of vitamin D daily. Only 600 of these can be obtained through food and supplements combined. If however, we expose our face and arms to the sun for 10 minutes during the midday hours we can obtain 1000 units.
Advice is that very fair skinned people should gradually increase their exposure. Dark skinned people, who have higher melanin which naturally filters the sun’s rays, will need longer exposure.
Further to the findings already discussed, there is actually much evidence to suggest that sunscreen contains chemicals which can be highly toxic to humans once absorbed and may actually contain cancer inducing ingredients thereby exposing us to exactly what they are supposed to protect us from. This needs further research however before concrete evidence can be supplied.
Reasons for Sunbathing
That the sun increases feelings of well being and positive mood enhancement isn’t breaking news to many of us. Many individuals report feeling happier, healthier and more energized during the summer months and although there may be many reasons for this it is likely that higher levels of vitamin D are in some way responsible.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) was once debunked as some kind of psychosomatic disorder but is now recognized as a very real and debilitating condition. Exact causes of SAD are not fully understood but again the chances are there is some link with vitamin D deficiency.
In a study of MS sufferers it was found that mortality was reduced by 76% where sunlight exposure was increased.
Other studies show some evidence for the link between higher sun exposure and the relief of arthritis and asthma and successful treatment of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Many skin conditions including eczema are improved significantly on exposure to the sun.
One study conducted amongst in-patients in a hospital found that those in sunny rooms required less pain relief and often recovered more quickly than patients in darker rooms.
There are more reports of the multiple health benefits of sunbathing than there is room to write them here. Sunbathing is definitely not dangerous but on the contrary healthy.
Should you wish to explore further then there are a surprisingly large number of books available on the subject, many written by scientifically or medically qualified professionals, including ‘Dark Deception’ by Dr Joseph Mercola and ‘The Healing Sun: Sunlight and Health in the 21st Century’ by Richard Hobday, MSc, Ph.D. to name but two.
Sunbathing for health – not an oxymoron after all but an incredibly important activity.