Research by Edinburgh University suggests sunlight helps reduce blood pressure, cutting heart attack and stroke risks and even prolonging life. The health benefits of exposing skin to sunlight may far outweigh the risk of developing skin cancer, according to the scientists.
UV rays were found to release a compound that lowers blood pressure.
Researchers said more studies would be carried out to determine if it is time to reconsider advice on skin exposure.
Is the risk of skin cancer just from the sun?
In an article published back in 1999, the BBC reported how a British biochemist suggested that the cocktail of chemicals involved in sunscreens could be converted into “free radical” molecules, which could cause cell damage and lead to cancer.
The article also referred to a study, published in the US Journal of the National Cancer Institute, that said people who wore higher factor sunscreens tended to stay out much longer, because they felt protected from the risk of sunburn. Wearing sunscreen makes people stay in the sun too long – and could release cancer-causing substances into the body, according to specialists.
Heart disease and stroke linked to high blood pressure are estimated to lead to about 80 times more deaths than those from skin cancer in the UK.
Production of the pressure-reducing compound, nitric oxide, is separate from the body’s manufacture of vitamin D, which rises after exposure to sunshine.
The Edinburgh University researchers said that until now vitamin D production had been considered the sole benefit of the sun to human health.
During the research, dermatologists studied the blood pressure of 24 volunteers under UV and heat lamps.
In one session, the volunteers were exposed to both UV rays and the heat of the lamps.
In the other, the UV rays were blocked so that only the heat affected the skin.
The results showed that blood pressure dropped significantly for an hour after exposure to UV rays, but not after the heat-only sessions.
Scientists said that this suggested it was the sun’s UV rays that brought health benefits.
The volunteers’ vitamin D levels remained unaffected in both sessions.
Dr Richard Weller, a senior lecturer in dermatology at Edinburgh University, said: “We suspect that the benefits to heart health of sunlight will outweigh the risk of skin cancer.
“The work we have done provides a mechanism that might account for this, and also explains why dietary vitamin D supplements alone will not be able to compensate for lack of sunlight.
“We now plan to look at the relative risks of heart disease and skin cancer in people who have received different amounts of sun exposure.
“If this confirms that sunlight reduces the death rate from all causes, we will need to reconsider our advice on sun exposure.”
The study will be presented on Friday in Edinburgh at the world’s largest gathering of skin experts. The International Investigative Dermatology conference starts on Wednesday and runs until Saturday.
2013 Miles in 2013
I am doing my 2013 miles in 2013 challenge in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust as I have been surprised since I started fundraising for the CF Trust just how many people are unaware of this disease and so I hope my efforts will not just raise money, but also awareness of the UK’s most most common life-threatening inherited disease.
The first person to commit to sponsoring my 2013 mile challenge has committed to 1p per mile (£20.13 in total) and this got me thinking. I am hoping that as many as possible of those reading this will commit to do the same and the best thing is, if each person does this on a “pay as you go” type approach all you will need to part with is approx £2 just after each pay day. In January I completed 205.9 miles, in February I completed a further 200.9 miles, in March I completed 185.7 miles and in April I completed 192.1 miles. If you can please spare £7.85 to help the Cystic Fibrosis Trust it will be greatly appreciated.
The easiest way to give your sponsorship is to visit my Just Giving page: http://www.justgiving.com/2012-AYearWithoutBeer-CF.
2013 Miles in 2013 – The rules
The rules for my 2013 miles in 2013 challenge are quite simple:
- All miles must be completely self powered (no motors, sails, etc)
- I must be able to evidence all miles, either via GPS or with a picture of any static gym equipment
To complete my 2013 miles I will be running, cycling, rowing and who knows, I might even try a few other self powered methods along the way.