We are constantly reminded that sun exposure is a major risk factor for skin cancer. However, there is WAY more to this story and the details matter! First of all, many studies show that the deadliest form of skin cancer – Melanoma – is not associated with cumulative sun exposure. In addition, skin cancer risk is mostly about avoiding sun burn, and everyone agrees this is an important goal.
Another important consideration is Vitamin D production – optimizing Vitamin D levels is incredibly important for disease prevention and the best way to do this is with safe, sensible sun exposure. See this blogpost for information on how to optimize your sun exposure based on your genetics and where you live: http://workoutanytime.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-facts-on-safe-sun-exposure-and.html
Negative implications of lack of sun exposure:
Increased dementia risk – People who completely avoid sun exposure have almost a 40% greater risk for dementia as they age.
Increase Breast Cancer Risk – Woman who avoid sun exposure have a much greater risk of developing breast cancer. In an analysis of women in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Epidemiologic Study, researchers found that the protective effects of sun-exposure on breast cancer was simply enormous. The risk reductions were highest for women who lived in United States regions of high solar radiation, with RRs ranging from 0.35-0.75. That means, sun-exposure reduced the risk of breast cancer by three-fold; for every 100 breast cancers in women practicing sun avoidance, the sun-loving women only had about 35 cancers, an enormous reduction.
Increased Bone Fracture Risk – Cumulative sun exposure decreases risk of breaking a hip. Fractures are significantly lower in those with high lifetime sun exposure.
Increased Risk of Multiple Sclerosis – Many studies show that both lifetime sun exposure and current sun exposure reduces the risk of contracting Multiple Sclerosis.
Increased of Myopia (near sightedness) – according to studies, children who get a lot of sun exposure have a much-reduced risk of developing myopia.
Increase Mortality Risk – A Study that followed 29,000 Swedish women for up to 20 years showed that sun avoiders died much younger than sun lovers, and that the effect of sun avoidance on mortality was equivalent to the risks created through smoking!
CAUTIONS – As stated above getting sun-burned is a very bad idea for many reasons. Like most things in life it is all about the right dose which is individual based on your skin type, where you live and your age – sunburns are particularly bad for children and children’s skin is much more sensitive to sun. Using clothing made to block sun exposure including hats is particularly important for children who will be in the sun for a long period of time!