Sun Exposure and Risk of Death

 

Dr. R’s Fast Facts

  • Avoiding the sun might do more harm than good. Take the time to know the good and bad of sun exposure.
  • For guidelines on obtaining the appropriate level of sun exposure, please take a moment and visit this link.

 

 

A fantastic study was recently published showing avoiding the sun may be much more harmful than obtaining sun exposure, even for those with a history of skin cancer.

 

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Sun Exposure and Risk of Death

Dr. Michael Ruscio: Hey, this is Dr. Ruscio. Let’s discuss sun exposure, skin cancer and your overall health.

You’ve probably heard conflicting things about the sun. On one end of the spectrum, you’ve probably heard some people commenting that the sun is something that has a lot of health-promoting properties – the sun and vitamin D.

There are also probably some concerns that you hear, maybe, from more of the dermatology community about skin cancer. Well, a recent study Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source was published looking at what effect does sun-avoidance have on your overall health?

This study looked at a large group of women, about 29,000 women were followed for about 20 years. So, a very well performed observational study. This was a group of women that had previous skin cancer and were recommend to avoid the sun because of the potential effect of excess sun exacerbating the skin cancer, of course.

What they found was very, very interesting. The overall death rate in the group that practice the most sun-avoidance was about twice-as-high, when compared to the group that obtained the highest level of sun exposure. So essentially, what this study has found in observing just under 30,000 women for about 20 years was that, even in women who had a previous history of skin cancer, those that practiced the highest level of sun avoidance had a two-times higher likelihood of dying, compared to women who obtained the most sun exposure.

So, what does this tell us? Well, it tells us that we may want to rethink the recommendation to avoid sun very strongly, and that sun exposure potentially when practiced responsibly, may have many health benefits.

Now, I’ve put together previously – and I’ll include the link for it here – recommendations to help guide you in obtaining reasonable sun exposure. And if you follow these recommendations, I think that, in my opinion, I think you’ll get all of the benefits of the sun and minimize the risk of detriment.

We have to be a little bit careful with how we interpret this because it was observational – it wasn’t a clinical trial. But, I think in my review of the evidence overall, that sun avoidance will do more harm than good, especially if you are someone who is trying to navigate the potentially conflicting and confusing recommendations regarding, ‘Should I obtain sun exposure, or should I avoid sun exposure because of the potential cancer detriments that it may pose?’

Now, there are a couple of important things that I should mention – you never want to burn. If you look at the recommendations that I outlined, that’s very much emphasized. So, you don’t want to burn A., and B. can you obtain these health benefits from supplementing with vitamin D alone? If you look on my website, you’ll find, along with this other link that I have provided, where I give the sun exposure recommendations, you’ll see a review of some of the latest research on vitamin D, which shows that the results of vitamin D supplementation are very disappointing; that there are several health benefits that seem to be derived exclusively from sun exposure and not from vitamin D supplementation. So, it’s important for me to emphasize that you can’t just take a pill or a vitamin D supplement and expect to obtain all of the same benefits that we see from sun exposure.

So, in recap, more and more evidence is continuing to emerge showing a link between your sun exposure and your health. This study, I thought, was a very well performed study showing that even people at the highest risk for danger from sun exposure actually seem to have an overall benefit from it. And, I’ve laid out some guidelines for how to obtain a reasonable level of sun exposure safely. And also, that you cannot obtain the same benefits from the sun through supplementing with vitamin D.

This is Dr. Ruscio. Hope this helps. Thanks!

 

Study notes:

  • “We assessed the avoidance of sun exposure as a risk factor for all-cause mortality for 29,518 Swedish women in a prospective 20-year follow-up of the Melanoma in Southern Sweden (MISS) cohort.”
  • The mortality rate amongst avoiders of sun exposure was approximately twofold higher compared with the highest sun exposure group
  • Guidelines for obtaining the right amount of sun.

 

Discussion

I care about answering your questions and sharing my knowledge with you. Leave a comment or connect with me on social media asking any health question you may have and I just might incorporate it into our next listener questions podcast episode just for you!

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