Exposure to the sun has both negative and positive effects on our health. While sunlight produces beneficial vitamin D in our skin, too much sun can lead to skin cancer. What is the relative risk versus benefit of sun exposure? A recent study from Denmark provided a surprising answer.
For this study researchers examined the entire population of Denmark ages 40 to 90 – 4.4 million people – for 25 years. Now that’s a large study! They looked for correlations between non-melanoma skin cancer, melanoma, heart attacks, hip fractures and death from all causes. As might be expected, they found that those diagnosed with skin cancers had a significantly lower rate of hip fractures. This makes sense because of the role vitamin D plays in calcium metabolism. Heart attacks were also significantly lower in the skin cancer groups, which can be explained by vitamin D’s known role in preventing heart disease.
Most significantly, incidence of death from all causes was a whopping 48% lower for those diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer (common but rarely fatal), and – what really surprised me – was still 11% lower for the melanoma group (rare but with higher mortality). As one reviewer in the Vitamin D Council blog put it “…here we have a study that shows that…even among individuals who have had skin cancer, increased levels of UV exposure are related to better health.”
Note that this study did not determine the cause of the results. I think we can safely assume, based on previous research, that the best explanation for the improved health outcomes in the skin cancer groups is that they had higher vitamin D levels. Outdoor exercise may also be a factor.
Fortunately we can minimize the risk of skin cancer and still reap the benefits of vitamin D. I have previously written about safe sun exposure for maximizing vitamin D production during the summer months. Since that season won’t return until next May, supplementation remains as the only option through the winter.
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.