Avoiding the Sun is a Major Risk Factor for Death.

Avoiding the Sun is a Major Risk Factor for Death.

By Marc Sorenson, EdD  Sunlight Institute

Those of us that understand the importance on regular sun exposure on human health were not surprised by the most recent research by Dr. Pelle Lindqvist and colleagues. It showed that women who had active sun-exposure habits lived longer than those who did not.[1] Over a 20-year period, the study demonstrated that compared to the highest sun-exposure group, life expectancy of sun avoiders was reduced significantly. Much of the reduction in death among the sun-exposed group was due to a lessened risk of cardiovascular disease and non-cancer, non-cardiovascular death. The risk of skin cancer was slightly increased among the sun exposed group, primarily because they lived longer and had more time to contract cancer.

Perhaps the most impressive statement to come out of the research was this: “Nonsmokers who avoided sun exposure had a life expectancy similar to smokers in the highest sun exposure group, indicating that avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor for death of a similar magnitude as smoking.”

This newest research is just one of several important contributions by Lindqvist and his group. Other assessments of the 20-year study revealed that the subjects who avoided sun exposure were twice as likely to die of any cause compared to those who had the highest sun exposure, and the researchers made this statement: “In both models the summary sun exposure variables showed a ‘dose-dependent’ inverse relation between sun exposure and all-cause death.”[2]

The research also showed that women with “normal” sun exposure habits were not at significantly increased risk of either melanoma or melanoma-related death. The publication seemed to give vitamin D most of the credit for increased life spans among those who had high sun exposures, but also mentioned the possibility that nitric-oxide production by sun-exposed skin may have been a factor.

If avoiding the sun is as dangerous as smoking cigarettes, why do many dermatologists still try to frighten us to death about soaking up some rays? Will they never learn?

[1] Lindqvist PG, Epstein E, Nielsen K, Landin-Olsson M, Ingvar C, Olsson H. Avoidance of sun exposure as a risk factor for major causes of death: a competing risk analysis of the Melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort. J Intern Med. 2016 Mar 16. doi: 10.1111/joim.12496. [Epub ahead of print].

[2] Pelle G. Lindqvist, Elisabeth Epstein, Mona Landin-Olsson, Christian Ingvar, Kari Nielsen, Magnus Stenbeck & Håkan Olsson. Avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor for all-cause mortality: results from the Melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort. J Intern Med. 2014 Jul;276(1):77-86.

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