Sunshine could benefit health and prolong life, study suggests

Exposing skin to sunlight may help to reduce blood pressure, cut the risk of heart attack and stroke – and even prolong life, a study suggests.

Researchers have shown that when our skin is exposed to the sun's rays, a compound is released in our blood vessels that helps .

The findings suggest that exposure to sunlight improves health overall, because the benefits of reducing blood pressure far outweigh the risk of developing .

The study has been carried out by the University of Edinburgh.

Heart disease and stroke linked to are estimated to lead to around 80 times more deaths than those from skin cancer, in the UK.

Production of this pressure-reducing compound – called nitric oxide – is separate from the body's manufacture of , which rises after exposure to sunshine. Until now it had been thought to solely explain the sun's benefit to human health, the scientists add.

The landmark proof-of-principle study will be presented on Friday in Edinburgh at the world's largest gathering of skin experts.

Researchers studied the blood pressure of 24 volunteers who sat beneath tanning lamps for two sessions of 20 minutes each. In one session, the volunteers were exposed to both the and the heat of the lamps. In the other, the UV rays were blocked so that only the heat of the lamps affected the skin.

The results showed that blood pressure dropped significantly for one hour following exposure to UV rays, but not after the heat-only sessions. Scientists say that this shows that it is the sun's UV rays that lead to health benefits. The volunteers' vitamin D levels remained unaffected in both sessions.

Dr Richard Weller, Senior Lecturer in Dermatology at the University of Edinburgh, said: "We suspect that the benefits to 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."

More information: The International Investigative Dermatology conference starts tomorrow (Wednesday) and runs until Saturday.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

UV nail lamps do not significantly up skin cancer risk

Dec 16, 2012

(HealthDay)—Ultraviolet (UV) nail lamps, used for professional and personal nail techniques, do not pose a clinically significant skin cancer risk, according to a letter to the editor published online Dec. ...

Cancer-causing skin damage is done when young

May 10, 2012

With high UV levels continuing in Queensland this autumn, young people are at risk of suffering the worst skin damage they will receive during their lifetime, research from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has found.

Recommended for you

Report highlights progress, challenges in health IT

9 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Progress has been made toward widespread adoption of electronic health records (EHRs), although there are still barriers to adoption of advanced use of EHRs, according to a report published ...

Training your brain to prefer healthy foods

10 hours ago

It may be possible to train the brain to prefer healthy low-calorie foods over unhealthy higher-calorie foods, according to new research by scientists at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center ...

Outdoor enthusiasts need a lightning plan

10 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Those partaking in outdoor sports and activities need to be aware of the threat posed by lightning and take appropriate safety measures, experts say.

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

arq
not rated yet May 08, 2013
Good to know!

And How did the belief that normal exposure to sun causes skin cancer, arise in the first place?

Exposure to the sun is as natural as drinking water!

Infact not getting any sun AT ALL is unnatural and unhealthy

Its only when people who are already at risk for skin cancer(genetically or because of other reasons) get sun exposure for more than an hour everyday, will develop skin cancer. So taking that into consideration and assuming that normal sun exposure among healthy adults, can also cause skin cancer is ridiculous!

Anyways, glad that research is recognising more benefits of sun exposure!