Sunshine could benefit health and prolong life, study suggests

May 7, 2013

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."

Explore further: Tanning beds could provide a greater risk than originally thought: new study

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

Related Stories

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.

UV nail lamps do not significantly up skin cancer risk

December 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. 6 in the Journal ...

Modern life may cause sun exposure, skin pigmentation mismatch

February 16, 2013

As people move more often and become more urbanized, skin color—an adaptation that took hundreds of thousands of years to develop in humans—may lose some of its evolutionary advantage, according to a Penn State anthropologist.

Recommended for you

Children born in the summer more likely to be healthy adults

October 12, 2015

Women who were born in the summer are more likely to be healthy adults, suggests new research published in the journal Heliyon. The authors of the study, which involved almost half a million people in the UK, say more sunlight ...

Mobile app records our erratic eating habits

September 24, 2015

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner? For too many of us, the three meals of the day go more like: office meeting pastry, mid-afternoon energy drink, and midnight pizza. In Cell Metabolism on September 24, Salk Institute scientists ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

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!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.