The Vitamin D Society of Canada has just released one of the best articles on the relationship of sun exposure and its potential for vitamin D production. Sun exposure is the natural way to obtain your essential vitamin D, and of course provides other essential photoproducts such as nitric oxide, serotonin, endorphin and BDNF.
Here is the press release from the Vitamin D Society, in full:
For Immediate Distribution
TORONTO, Ont (April 4, 2017) – The daylight hours are getting longer, the sun is getting stronger and summer is just around the corner. Make this the year that you optimize your vitamin D levels through effective sun exposure. Enjoy the health benefits and disease prevention from optimal vitamin D levels and learn to control your risks from sun exposure.
Vitamin D is made naturally in your body when UVB rays from the sun convert cholesterol in your skin to pre-vitamin D3. We make about 90% of our vitamin D from UVB sun exposure. UVB rays are short and only reach the earth when the sun is directly above us. We can’t make vitamin D in the winter in Canada because the sun is at too low of an angle and the UVB rays are absorbed in the atmosphere.
You make vitamin D in Canada between the months of May and October. The best time for exposure is around midday, between 10am and 2pm, when the UV index is above 3 and your shadow is shorter than your height. The further you get from noon, the lower the amount of vitamin D you’ll make. The sun’s visible light may penetrate through glass, but UVB light will not; therefore you will not make vitamin D.
Full body sun exposure at non-burning levels can create between
10,000-25,000 IU of vitamin D in your skin. You can never get too much vitamin D from the sun as your skin self regulates, whereas ingesting vitamin D does not have the same control. In addition, vitamin D that you make from the sun lasts twice as long in your body as vitamin D taken through supplements or food.
Statistics Canada reports that Canadian vitamin D levels have dropped by 10% over the past six years. The root cause of this decrease is lower sun exposure. People are just not getting outside around midday in the summer and making vitamin D, and when they are outside they are using sunscreen, which if applied correctly prevents 95%+ of vitamin D production.
In Canada, 12 million Canadians (35%) have vitamin D blood levels below the recommendations from Health Canada. This puts these people at a higher risk for several diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and many more. In fact, a study completed in 2016 reported that if Canadians increased their vitamin D levels to the recommended level of 100 nmol/L, we would save $12.5B in healthcare costs and 23,000 premature deaths annually.
A recent study reported that women who avoided the sun have twice the risk of all cause death. The authors said that “avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor for death of a similar magnitude as smoking.”
Skin cancer is a concern and risk of sun exposure must be managed and balanced with the benefits from vitamin D and other photoproducts. Research has shown that people with higher sun exposure such as outdoor workers, who have 3-10 times the sun exposure as indoor workers, have a lower incidence of melanoma. The National Cancer Institute reports that
melanoma risk is increased as a result of intermittent acute sun
exposure leading to sunburn. People who are a skin type 1, with white or very pale skin colour, red or blonde hair colour and who always burn and never tan, should severely limit their sun exposure.
The Vitamin D Society offers the following tips:
– Know your own skin and skin type. Don’t burn. Never overexpose yourself.
– Acclimatize or condition your skin for sun exposure by gradually
building or lengthening exposure times as your skin begins to tan to reduce your risk of burning
– Prevent burning and overexposure when required through the use of hats, clothing, shade and sunscreens.
– For vitamin D, get sun exposure at midday, between 10 am and 2 pm, when the UV index is above 3 and your shadow is shorter than your height.
– Expose more skin for a shorter period of time to generate more vitamin D while reducing your risk of overexposure.
It’s important to manage the risk and enjoy the rewards of moderate sun exposure for good health. Cancer Research UK, through the Consensus Vitamin D Position Statement, offers the following recommendation:
“Enjoying the sun safely, while taking care not to burn, can help provide the benefits of vitamin D without unduly raising the risk of skin cancer.”
“This advice may go against what current health organizations
recommend,” says Perry Holman, Executive Director of the Vitamin D Society. “They typically recommend you stay out of the sun at midday and use sunscreen when outdoors. But this would reduce your potential vitamin D production and does not consider the benefits as well as the risks of sun exposure on overall health. You need to have balance.”
About the Vitamin D Society:
The Vitamin D Society is a Canadian non-profit group organized to increase awareness of the many health conditions strongly linked to vitamin D deficiency; encourage people to be proactive in protecting their health and have their vitamin D levels tested annually; and help fund valuable vitamin D research. The Vitamin D Society recommends people achieve and maintain optimal 25(OH)D blood levels between 100 –
150 nmol/L (Can) or 40-60 ng/ml (USA).
To learn more about vitamin D, please visit www.vitamindsociety.org
For more information, please contact:
Melissa Andrade, Enterprise Canada 905-346-1230
THIS PRESS RELEASE CONTAINS MUCH OF WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT VITAMIN D, SUN EXPOSURE AND HEALTH. Please read it carefully, as it could save your life.
A very interesting study has been completed in a remote area of South America.
An indigenous tribe from the remote Bolivian Amazon jungle, known as the Tsimane, has been found to have the world’s healthiest arteries. People there survive on a diet low in saturated fats and high in non-processed foods. One of the researchers stated that “Our study shows that the Tsimane indigenous South Americans have the lowest prevalence of coronary atherosclerosis of any population yet studied.”
Here are some of the lifestyle habits and facts regarding the Tsimane.
- The diet is fiber rich.
- The diet is approximately 75% non-processed carbohydrates. Isn’t that supposed to make us fat?
- The diet includes rice, plantain (a type of banana), corn, nuts, and a very small amount of animal meat.
- Smoking is almost non-existent.
- Only three per cent of the people had moderate to high heart disease risk; two-thirds of them over 75 years of age had virtually no risk. The article states that only 14% of Americans had no risk, and that half had a moderate or high risk—about 5 times higher than the Tsimane.
- Men spend six to seven hours of their day being physically active, whereas women spend four to six hours. This, of course, means plenty of sun exposure.
During most of my professional career, I have advised people to live on this type of diet, but without the meat or any other animal product. In addition we helped them to exercise several hours daily outside. During that time, my wife and I have observed that people have recovered from diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and other maladies. That is no surprise, considering this new research and many other studies. Vitamin D and nitric oxide, both photoproducts, are exceptionally important to human health, but when it comes to heart disease, nitric oxide is probably the operative photoproduct. Here is a quote from Dr. Richard Weller, a common-sense dermatologist and great researcher:
“Sunlight may have beneficial cardiovascular effects, independently of Vitamin D production. Vitamin D could in these circumstances act as a marker for sunlight exposure and its postulated beneficial effects.” “These recent human data show the physiological relevance of photorelaxation. High blood pressure is the leading cause of disability adjusted life years lost worldwide and as a risk factor underlies 18% of all deaths.” The study noted: “The action spectrum of nitrite release shows that ultraviolet B is also involved in nitrite reduction to Nitric Oxide, and thus sunlight may be more effective than a pure UVA source.” The study concluded: “the prevalence of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular deaths is around 100 times higher than those from skin cancer. Interventions leading to small changes in the incidence of cardiovascular disease are thus of greater benefit to the health of the public even than large changes in skin cancer incidence.”
The Tsimane, therefore, are living (unknowingly) an almost perfect lifestyle for optimal health. To stay well, it is imperative that we do the same, although we don’t need quite that much sun exposure. Remember to build up a tan and be safe in the sun.
 Weller R. The health benefits of UV radiation exposure through vitamin D production or non-vitamin D pathways. Blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Photochem. Photobiol. Sci. 2016, DOI: 10.1039/C6PP00336B.
Endometrial cancer, also called corpus uterine cancer, is a reproductive cancer that takes the lives of many women. There are 60,050 new cases yearly from endometrial cancer and there are 10,470 deaths. Like many cancers such as breast and prostate cancer, sun exposure may have remarkable protective effects that should not be ignored.
Endometrial cancer mortality rates were found to be strongly inversely correlated with sun exposure in Dr. William Grant’s ecological studies.  Other research, using Spanish data, found an inverse correlation between endometrial cancer mortality and sun exposure assessed by using latitude as an index of sun exposure—higher latitude means less sun exposure, which means greater cancer risk. Corroborating this finding was research from Sweden; this 15.5-year study showed a 20% decrease in the risk of endometrial cancer among women who sunbathed in the summer, and a 40% decrease in risk in those who used a sunbed more than three times per year. When the data was adjusted for confounding factors such as body-mass index and physical activity, the decrease in the risk of endometrial cancer was 50%!
The takeaway from this information is this: Don’t be taken in by the anti-sun cabal. Read all the facts before making a decision. And, always take care not to burn, whether in the sun or in a sunbed.
 Grant WB. An estimate of premature cancer mortality in the U.S. due to inadequate doses of solar ultraviolet-B radiation. Cancer. 2002 Mar 15;94(6):1867-75.
 Grant WB, Garland CF. The association of solar ultraviolet B (UVB) with reducing risk of cancer: multifactorial ecologic analysis of geographic variation in age-adjusted cancer mortality rates. Anticancer Res. 2006 Jul-Aug;26(4A):2687-99.
Grant, WB. An ecologic study of cancer mortality rates in Spain with respect to indices of solar UVB irradiance and smoking. Int J Cancer 2007;120:1123-28.
 Epstein E, Lindqvist PG, Geppert B, Olsson H. A population-based cohort study on sun habits and endometrial cancer Br J Cancer. 2009;101(3):537-40.
Benefits of sun exposure, by Marc Sorenson, EdD…
Interesting research regarding the critical necessity of sun exposure continues to mount.
There is no doubt that lack of sun exposure leads to disease, and a major factor in that scenario is a disrupted circadian rhythm. Researchers have stated that “Exposure to sunlight during the day, and darkness at night, optimally entrains biological rhythms to promote homeostasis and human health. Unfortunately, a major consequence of the modern lifestyle is increased exposure to sun-free environments during the day and artificial lighting at night.” Night-shift work is one of the worst contributors to the disruption of our natural biological rhythms, also known as circadian rhythms, and it certainly defines the sun-free environment discussed. There is a strong association of night-shift work to many diseases, but one of the most prevalent of these is breast cancer.
So what is natural and good for the health? Researchers have shown that a disrupted circadian rhythm can be reprogrammed, or “entrained” by exposure to a natural summer, meaning a cycle of 14 hours, 40 minutes of summer light, to 9 hours, 20 minutes of darkness. The authors state that this “light-dark cycle programs the human circadian clock to solar time, such that the internal biological night begins near sunset and ends near sunrise.”
Such a cycle would certainly seems natural for humans who were raised on ranches or farms where the day’s activities begins early in the morning sunlight and usually end near sunset. I know, because that pattern described my youth. For primitive peoples, that cycle was probably a necessity to gather the food necessary for survival. It is now ingrained in to our DNA, and disruption leads to disease.
So how are circadian rhythms reset to help our health? According to the aforementioned research (footnote 2), it can be accomplished by either a week of natural light exposure, or a weekend spent camping in nature. I am a camper, and I know that when the sun goes down, I am ready to sleep, and when the sun rises the next morning, I’m ready to start my day’s adventures.
The message here is that daytime should be spent outside in natural light. This will probably reduce the risk of many diseases, including breast cancer. It is also imperative that our skin receives its sun exposure to produce vitamin D and other healthful photoproducts. In addition being outside in the sun will increase our production of serotonin and enhance our moods.
Safely embrace the sun and save your life! Be sure not to burn.
 Ball L, Palesh, O, Kriegsfeld L. The Pathophysiologic Role of Disrupted Circadian and Neuroendocrine Rhythms in Breast Carcinogenesis. Endocr Rev. 2016 Oct;37(5):450-466.
 Stothard ER, McHill AW, Depner CM, Birks BR, Moehlman TM, Ritchie HK, Guzzetti JR, et al.
According to a new study, people with MS feel better when they spend more time in the sunshine. Not only will they feel better, but they will have lower rates of fatigue, and a slower progression to disability. None of this should be a surprise, since similar results have been reported for decades. For example, in 1922 Dr. Charles Davenport wrote a paper entitled, “Multiple Sclerosis from the standpoint of geographic distribution and race. He analyzed the MS rate of military draftees and compared it to their states of origin. The highest rates were found in men who grew up in Michigan, Wisconsin, and the extreme northwest—all areas with low sun availability. There were few cases of MS among those who grew up in southern states, where sun exposure is abundant. He also noted that those from urban areas, which have lower sun availability than rural areas, had 50% higher MS rates than those from rural areas. Similar studies confirm that relationship. 
Another interesting research paper demonstrated that sun exposure, while obviously being critical in the production of vitamin D, had its own profound influence in lessening the degeneration of nerves (neurodegeneration) in those with MS. By measuring whole brain volume (WBV) and grey-matter volume (GMV) by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the scientists determined that greater summer sun exposure predicted greater WBV and GMV in MS patients. Interestingly though, when vitamin D levels were measured, they had no influence on the positive effects of sun exposure with WBV or GMV. The researchers concluded: “Sun exposure may have direct effects on MRI measures of neurodegeneration in MS, independently of vitamin D.”
Be sure that you soak up your share of sunlight, without burning of course. It may indeed save your life!
 Davenport, C. Multiple Sclerosis from the standpoint of geographic distribution and race. Arch Neurol Psychiatry 1922;8:
 Acheson ED, Bachrach CA, Wright FM. Some comments on the relationship of the distribution of multiple sclerosis to altitude, solar radiation and other variables. Acta Psychiat (Scand) 1960;35 (suppl 147):132-47. 51-58
 Norman JE Jr, Kurtzke JF, Beebe GW. Epidemiology of multiple sclerosis in USA veterans: 2. Latitude, climate, and risk of multiple sclerosis. J Chron Dis 1983;36:551-59
 Zivadinov R, Treu CN, Weinstock-Guttman B, Turner C, Bergsland N, O’Connor K, Dwyer MG, Carl E, Ramasamy DP, Qu J, Ramanathan M. Interdependence and contributions of sun exposure and vitamin D to MRI measures in multiple sclerosis. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2013 Oct;84(10):1075-81.
Benefits of sun exposure by Marc Sorenson, EdD…
A new study on nutrition and skin aging corroborates what I have said previously in this blog: Sunlight is not the guilty party when skin problems occur; it is only one of many factors that influence the skin, and in some cases the influence is protective. And of course, sun exposure influence on the other organs of the body is overwhelmingly healthful.
To the extent that sun causes skin damage, it does so due to lack of proper nutrients in the diet, and there is little doubt that there will be some damage caused by sun exposure without proper nutrition. We eat too many toxic fats, too much meat and cheese, too much sugar and too many refined carbohydrates. At the same time we eat far too few vegetables and fruits, which can protect all the tissues in the body, including skin. Much of that protection is due to the high antioxidant levels of fruits and veggies. It is normal for humans to be exposed to sunlight, and it is equally normal for humans to take in the nutrients necessary to prevent skin damage, so that the sun may heal the body without harming our largest organ.
One of those antioxidants is astaxanthin, a new “superstar” in the antioxidant field. A new study shows that a group of mice that were exposed to Ultraviolet A Light (UVA,) lost water in the skin and developed wrinkles (both signs of skin aging). But in a group of mice that were also exposed to UVA and were supplemented with astaxanthin, no such skin aging occurred. This information demonstrates that poor nutritional habits may make sun exposure dangerous to the skin, because it is working without God’s natural balancing through nutrition. Our atrocious eating (and drinking) habits lead to skin damage, and sun exposure gets the blame.
Fruits and vegetable consumption help protect the skin, but other nutritional factors damage the skin. Alcohol consumption is one such factor; in one investigation, those persons who were in the highest quintile (fifth) of alcohol consumption were shown to have a 65% increased risk of melanoma.  Another indicated a 250% increased melanoma risk among those who consumed two or more alcoholic drinks per day, and a third demonstrated that those persons who consumed seven or more drinks per week had 64% greater risk of melanoma and a 23% greater risk of non-melanoma skin cancer when compared to non-drinkers. There are at least two other negative dietary habits that correlate to increased skin-cancer risk: first, the highest dairy-product consumption has also been shown to correlate to a 2½ times increased in risk of developing a non-melanoma carcinoma (common skin cancer). Secondly, the types of fats we consume are exceptionally important. Fats we consume in junk foods are deadly, both for overall health and for skin cancer. They are filled with free-radical molecules that wreak havoc on the skin; if we eat such fats without massive quantities of colorful fruits and veggies, we will be much more susceptible to skin damage and potential cancers of all kinds.
Sun exposure is absolutely essential for human health; but to protect yourself against any damage to the skin, eat the foods that were made for humans!
 Komatsu T, Sasaki S, Manabe Y, Hirata T, Sugawara T. Preventive effect of dietary astaxanthin on UVA-induced skin photoaging in hairless mice. PLoS One. 2017 Feb 7;12(2):e0171178.
 Millen AE, Tucker MA, Hartge P, Halpern A, Elder DE, Guerry D 4th, Holly EA, Sagebiel RW, Potischman N. Diet and melanoma in a case-control study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2004 Jun;13(6):1042-51.
Bain C, Green A, Siskind V, Alexander J, Harvey P. Diet and melanoma. An exploratory case-control study. Ann Epidemiol 1993;3:235-38.
Jessica T. Kubo, Michael T. Henderson, Manisha Desai, Jean Wactawski-Wende, Marcia L. Stefanick, Jean Y. Tang. Alcohol consumption and risk of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer in the Women’s Health Initiative. Cancer Causes Control. 2014 Jan;25(1):1-10.
Hughes MC, van der Pols JC, Marks GC, Green AC. Food intake and risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin in a community: The Nambour skin cancer cohort study. Int J Cancer 2006; online publication ahead of print.
Benegits of sun exposure by Marc Sorenson, EdD…
For those who follow my writings, it should now be obvious that the risk of melanoma is decreased by regular sun exposure, and that the evidence for the health benefits of safe sun becomes clearer by the day. I opine that millions of lives could be saved yearly by regular, non-burning sun exposure for the entire population.
Another benefit of moderate sun exposure, or other ultraviolet radiation (UVR), is that it does not cause sufficient DNA damage to prevent efficient repair. A study published in the British Journal of Dermatology reviewed the impact of repeated low level sunlight exposures on vitamin D status and DNA damage/repair in light and brown skinned individuals. The UVR doses were equivalent to 13-17 minutes of midday exposure in the UK. The study reported that no evidence existed for these low-level exposures leading to accumulated DNA-damage, indicating that any damage was quickly repaired. The research also showed that the exposures led to sufficient vitamin D levels in the participants. In addition, it has been shown that “Regular exposure to UV leads to an almost complete disappearance of DNA damage in the basal and suprabasal layers of the epidermis, where the initiating of skin cancer occurs. It is no wonder that regular sun exposure is associated with less melanoma! Soak up some moderate, non-burning sun!
 Felton SJ, Cooke MS, Kift R, Berry JL, Webb AR, Lam PMW, de Gruijl FR, Vail A, and Rhodes LE. Concurrent beneficial (vitamin D production) and hazardous (cutaneous DNA damage) impact of repeated low-level summer sunlight exposures. Br J Dermatol. 2016 Jul 14. doi: 10.1111/bjd.14863. [Epub ahead of print]
 van der Rhee H, de Vries E, Coomans C, van de Velde P, Jan Willem Coebergh JW. Sunlight: For Better or For Worse? A Review of Positive and Negative Effects of Sun Exposure. Cancer Research Frontiers. 2016 May; 2(2): 156-183.
The necessity of sun exposure for heart health, by Marc Sorenson, EdD…
Despite the fact that higher vitamin D levels are nearly always found to be related to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and associated diseases such as diabetes mellitus, randomized controlled trials have not found that vitamin D supplementation reduces risk of cardiovascular disease.
Therefore, vitamin D levels are likely a surrogate measurement for sun exposure, meaning that some other photoproduct such as nitric oxide (NO) may be responsible for the lowered risk of CVD. A pair of recent papers reported that leisure-time or recreational outdoor physical activity was significantly associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. In a study in the U.S., both frequency and intensity of outdoor activities were associated with reduced risk, as was higher vitamin D level. When vitamin D levels were removed from the equation, an inverse association was still found between outdoor recreational activity and mortality. The authors stated the following: “The underlying mechanism for this association may not involve 25(OH)D hence, further studies are warranted to confirm and investigate the underlying mechanism.” I would suggest that nitric oxide was the protective photoproduct, produced by sun exposure, which lessened the risk of CVD with outdoor activity.
Similar findings have been found for hypertension, diabetes mellitus, heart failure, stroke, and myocardial infarction (heart attack). In a study in Finland, older adults who had moderate leisure-time activity had 30-40% reduced mortality and cardiovascular disease rates than those with low activity levels, while those with high activity levels had 50% lower rates.
Two messages from this research: (1) Start living more of your life outdoors. (2) Be sure to obtain plenty of non-burning sun exposure during you outdoor activity. Your life may depend on it.
 Wang L, Song Y, Manson JE, Pilz S, März W, Michaëlsson K, Lundqvist A, Jassal SK, Barrett-Connor E, Zhang C, Eaton CB, May HT, Anderson JL, Sesso HD. Circulating 25-hydroxy-vitamin D and risk of cardiovascular disease: A meta-analysis of prospective studies. Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes. 2012 Nov 1;5(6):819-29.
 Song Y, Wang L, Pittas AG, Del Gobbo LC, Zhang C, Manson JE, Hu FB. Blood 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels and incident type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Diabetes Care. 2013 May;36(5):1422-8.
 Veloudi P, Jones G, Sharman JE. Effectiveness of vitamin D supplementation for cardiovascular health outcomes. Pulse 2016;4:193-207 https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/452742
 Donneyong MM, Taylor KC, Kerber RA, Hornung CA, Scragg R. Is outdoor recreational activity an independent predictor of cardiovascular disease mortality – NHANES III? Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2016 Aug;26(8):735-42.
 Barengo NC, Antikainen R, Borodulin K, Harald K, Jousilahti P. Leisure-Time Physical Activity Reduces Total and Cardiovascular Mortality and Cardiovascular Disease Incidence in Older Adults. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2016 Dec 26. doi: 10.1111/jgs.14694. [Epub ahead of print]
By Marc Sorenson, EdD, for sun exposure…
A new research paper on sun exposure and cancer has some interesting observations and some errors. It is entitled, Does Sunlight protect us from cancer? Here is the abstract of the article, verbatim.
“The Ultraviolet (UV) radiation contained in sunlight is a powerful mutagen and immune suppressant which partly explains why exposure to solar UV is the biggest risk factor for the development of cutaneous tumors. Evidence is building that sunlight may be protective against some internal malignancies. Because patients with these tumors are often vitamin D deficient, this has led some to propose that vitamin D supplementation will be beneficial in the treatment of these cancers. However, the results from already completed trials have been disappointing which has given weight to the argument that there must be something else about sunlight that explains its cancer-protecting properties.”
The first sentence, of course, is false. The idea, that sun exposure is the biggest risk factor for skin cancer, is erroneous. We have presented materials many times, proving that melanoma is not caused by sun exposure, and that sun exposure is protective against that disease. And as regards common skin cancers, we have shown that high-fat nutrition, lack of antioxidants, meat consumption and alcohol intake are all risk factors. Search the blogs on this site to read the different articles.
The statement is correct, of course, that sunlight is protective against many internal cancers. Dr. Bill Grant and I are finishing our book, Embrace the Sun, where we present nearly all of the research on the protective influence of sun exposure against cancer.
The statement that vitamin D research has been disappointing is both true and false. Randomized controlled studies (RCTs) have shown the vitamin D supplements do have a protective effect against internal cancers, contrary to the statement by the researchers.
Finally, let’s look at the statement that there is something beyond vitamin D that explains the cancer-protecting properties of sun exposure. That is partially true. Beyond vitamin D, the sun causes the production of nitric oxide, serotonin, endorphin and BDNF, all of which are vital to human health, and may have their own cancer-protective properties.
The bottom line? Eat correctly (avoid junk), REGULARLY soak up some sun around midday and get plenty of exercise. That advice will be a boon to your health in myriad ways.