Are Suntans and Sun Exposure as Unhealthy as we have been Taught?

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The Many Health Benefits of Sun Exposure.

The material for this Healthcast comes from a magazine article in the magazine Outside, written by Rowan Jacobsen, January 10, 2019.

Did you know that vitamin D is made by your body in response to being out in the sun? the less exposure you have to the sun the less vitamin D you make. You can supplement your body’s natural amount of vitamin D by taking supplements that you can buy at a health food store or from a physician. (we would recommend buying them from your doctor because they generally have better regulatory support and consistency in their manufacturing.

People with low vitamin D levels have significantly higher rates of almost all diseases you could name: cancers, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, heart attacks and strokes, depression, autoimmune conditions, mental lack of focus and cognitive impairment……

The American Academy of Dermatology takes a zero-tolerance attitude towards sun exposure. They say on their website that “you need to protect your skin from the sun every day, even when it is cloudy” they encourage us to use sunblock and to get our needed vitamin D from supplements to our diets.

Part of the challenge in discussing Vitamin D and the sun is that we all tend to focus and are encouraged to focus on skin cancers and damage to the skin. But what we are not told because the dermatological associations (at least in America) don’t want us out in the sun. Their primary focus in on skin damage and skin cancer. But other research indicates that the sun can help us avoid or limit the impact on our health in many areas.

The article mentions a recent study in which 25,871 participants received high doses of vitamin D for five years and they could identify no beneficial effect in the areas of cancer, heart disease, or stroke! Also, their blood pressure was down. The author of the article quotes a study tracking the blood pressure of 340,000 people in the united states, adjusting for variables such as age and skin type, the results showed clearly the reason people in sunnier climates have lower blood pressure is as simple as light hitting the skin from the sun!

Did you know that the rates of high blood pressure stroke, and heart disease, as well as overall mortality increase in proportion to your distance from the equator? These illnesses all increase during the darker winter months as well.  This raises the question:  could exposing skin to sunlight lower blood pressure?  The study says that when volunteers were exposed to as little as 30 minutes of sun a day, their blood pressure went down, and their nitric oxide levels went up!

The question that medicine struggles with is how to do comparative analysis. What about skin cancer? Skin cancer kills surprisingly few people: less than 3 per 100,000 people in the US each year die from skin cancer. Yet for every person who dies of skin cancer, more than 100 die from cardiac problems.  

There are several types of skin cancer the only one that is often fatal are the melanomas. People of color rarely get melanomas. The rate is 26 per 100 thousand in Caucasians, 5 per 100 thousand Hispanics and 1 per 100 thousand in African Americans.

Melanoma is much rarer than other types accounting for only 1 to 3 % of new skin cancers. People that work out of doors have half the melanoma rate of indoor workers!

Research in Sweden tells that over a 20-year period, sun avoiders were twice as likely to die as sun worshippers. The Journal of Internal Medicine has a conclusion that avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor of a similar magnitude as smoking in terms of life expectancy.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that all people, regardless of skin color, protect themselves from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and using a broad spectrum, water resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

The thing we want you to consider is: are you more likely or should you be more afraid of developing melanoma’s which could be potentially fatal, or are there other health issues which are much more likely to be lethal for you if you avoid the sun altogether? The dermatological societies in Britain and Australia and New Zealand do not agree with the American one!

Investigate the research and make your own informed decisions about sunshine and its role in your life. Calculate the risks, make a choice. Happy tanning.

This Health cast was written and presented by Dr. Kathy Maupin, M.D., Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Expert and Author, with Brett Newcomb, MA., LPC., Family Counselor, Presenter and Author.

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