Tag Archives: sunlight

The Latest on Sunlight and Asthma. Lack of Windows profoundly increases Risk.

By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute…

Asthma is a disorder characterized by inflammation of the air passages, which cause narrowing of the airways that transport air from the nose and mouth to the lungs.[i]  The mechanism by which sunlight may reduce asthma and its symptoms could be the anti-inflammatory properties of the vitamin D production that it stimulates in the skin.  Inflammation is often caused by proteins called cytokines that are either pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory elements of the immune system.[ii]  Vitamin D has the ability to inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokine production while stimulating the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines.[iii] However, there are likely other attributes of sunlight, beyond stimulating vitamin D production in the skin, that have beneficial affects.

One of the most recent studies on factors that contribute to asthma showed that living in a room without windows was associated with an increased the risk of asthma of 930%,  and living in an area without adequate sunlight was associated with an increased the risk of 220%.[iv] Considering that windows filter out the UVB light that stimulates the production of vitamin D, having windows could not have reduced asthma by vitamin D production—it had to be some other factor—something that entered the room through that window glass protected the people with windows from the remarkable increase in asthma they would have otherwise had. We know that UVA light, which does pass through windows, stimulates the production of nitric oxide, which is a potent vasodilator. Could it also be a bronchodilator? This explanation, of course, is theory.

Other research that indicates a direct influence of sunlight on asthma, is one by Hart and her colleagues, which showed that controlled exposure to ultraviolet light (UVR) in mice markedly limited the development, incidence and severity of asthma symptoms such as inflamed airways and lungs.[v] These researchers exposed mice to allergens that generally brought on asthma attacks and then exposed them to sun lamps for 30 minutes.   After the exposure, the allergens caused no attacks.  The researchers also stated that sunlamp exposure produced a cell type in mice, that when transferred into other mice, suppressed the immune reactions and halted symptoms. This is another indication that sunlight has a healthful effect on asthma beyond vitamin D production.

Dr. Litonjua and Dr. Weiss, noting that the prevalence of asthma and allergic diseases began to increase worldwide in 1960, hypothesized that since people have increasingly spent more time indoors, there has been less exposure to sunlight, which has led to decreased cutaneous vitamin D production.[vi] This could have further led to vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women, resulting in more asthma in their offspring. But was vitamin D deficiency the cause or was it simply sunlight deficiency? Or could it have been both?

At the health resort owned by the Sorensons, we often noticed that asthmatics ceased using their inhalers after a week or two of hiking in the sunshine. One of them decreased the dosage from 6 inhalers per day to zero in about a week. Could it have been sunlight? We believe that the combination of mostly plant-based nutrition, combined with sunlight, made the difference, and the aforementioned research provides reasonable support for that opinion.

[i] Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: Asthma Facts and Figures.  Accessed 3-6-2010 http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=8&sub=42

[ii] Kurtzke J. On the fine structure of the distribution of multiple sclerosis 1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D3 inhibits cytokine production by human blood monocytes at the post-transcriptional level. Cytokine 1992;4:506-12.

[iii] Canning MO, Grotenhuis K, de Wit H, Ruwhof C, Drexhage HA.  I-alpha,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D3 (l,25(OH)(2)D(3)) hampers the maturation of fully active immature dendritic cells from monocytes. Eur J Endocrinol 2001;145:351-57.

[iv] Kamran A, Hanif S, Murtaza G. Risk factors of childhood asthma in children attending Lyari General Hospital. J Pak Med Assoc 2015 Jun;65(6):647-50.

[v] Hart, P.  Exposure to sunlight could reduce asthma.  Newsletter of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research 2006;3:2

[vi] Litonjua AA, Weiss ST.  Is vitamin D deficiency to blame for the asthma epidemic?  J Allergy Clin Immunol 2007;120:1031-35.

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Can the Quantity of Sunlight in the Birth Month alter the Longevity of Diabetics?

By Marc Sorenson, EdD. Sunlight Institute

One of the more interesting research papers in recent memory demonstrates that the amount of sunlight during the month of birth may increase the life span of adult diabetics.[1] The researchers studied the death records of 829,000 diabetics, 90% of whom were type 2. Among the most interesting findings was that with rapidly decreasing ultraviolet radiation (UVR or sunlight) at the time of birth, lifespan decreased in better nourished, white female diabetic population.

Diabetic males, on the other hand, gained 6.1 years of life when exposure to sunlight was increasing at birth month, whereas females gained 2.3 years.

This all makes perfect sense, since fall weather is a time of rapidly decreasing sunlight intensity and a drop in temperature, which would decrease vitamin D and other photoproducts, and cause people to be outdoors less.

The researchers concluded that “Rapidly changing UVR at the equinoxes modulates the expression of an epigenome involving the conservation of energy, a mechanism especially canalized in women. Decreasing UVR at conception and early gestation stimulates energy conservation in persons we consider ‘diabetic’ in today’s environment of caloric surfeit. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries ethnic minorities had poorer nutrition, laborious work, and leaner bodies, and in that environment a calorie-conserving epigenome was a survival advantage. Ethnic minorities with a similar epigenome lived long enough to express diabetes as we define it today and exceeded the lifespan of their nondiabetic contemporaries, while that epigenome in diabetics in the nutritional environment of today is detrimental to lifespan.”

So as I see it, those who are programmed genetically for diabetes can increase lifespan by being born at the right time of year. If only their parents had known!

[1] George E Davis Jr* and Walter E Lowell. Variation in ultraviolet radiation and diabetes: evidence of an epigenetic effect that modulates diabetics’ lifespan. Clinical Epigenetics 2013, 5:5.

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Sleep Deprivation, Metabolic Syndrome and Sunlight

By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute

It is becoming increasingly obvious that lack of sleep is a major risk factor for human health. In a recent study reported in the journal Sleep Medicine,[i] 2579 adults without metabolic syndrome, were assessed for sleep habits for 2.6 years to determine their risk of developing metabolic syndrome, also known as Met S. Met S is a group of metabolic disorders (high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, high cholesterol, high triglyceride levels, low HDL levels and insulin resistance) that are linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The participants were aged between 40 and 70 years.

Those who slept and average of less than 6 hours daily were 41% more likely to develop Met S than those who slept 6-7.9 hours. Among the measurements that were particularly concerning, were a 30% increased risk of high blood glucose and excess belly fat (both indications of future diabetes), and a 56% higher risk of high blood pressure. The researchers concluded that “Short sleep duration is an independent risk factor for incident metabolic syndrome in a population-based longitudinal study.”

Indeed, Lack of sleep can be deadly. Forbes Magazine online ran an excellent article on sunlight and sleep,[ii] in which they stated the following statistics: “In 2012, 60 Million Americans filled prescriptions for sleeping pills, up from 46 million in 2006.” The article discusses the potential dangers of sleep medications, showing that those who take 18 pills per year have a tripling of the risk of death compared to those who take fewer than that 18. It then describes the results of research showing that people whose workplaces have windows are able to sleep about 46 minutes per night more than those who have no natural light access.  Those who had more exposure to sunlight also were generally happier, had fewer ailments and experienced better vitality than their counterparts without windows.

Many individuals have difficulty sleeping long and soundly enough to feel refreshed. A study by Dr. Julie Gammack exposed test subjects to 30-60 minutes per day of direct sunlight, and according to the Saint Louis University health web site, “Nursing home patients who were exposed to natural light had improved sleep quality, less difficulty falling asleep, fewer episodes of wakefulness during the night and greater satisfaction with the amount of sleep they got.”[iii] Other research by Dr. Ayoub and colleagues in Alexandria, Egypt demonstrated that there were several factors associated with insomnia among the elderly. [iv] Having five or more diseases was associated with a 7.5 times increased risk, anxiety was associated with a 1.9 times increased risk, and depression with a 1.74 times increased risk. There was only one factor that reduced risk. Sunlight exposure was associated with 43% reduced risk. Likely, this was due to the production of serotonin and melatonin due to sunlight exposure (see the last paragraph. Other research has shown that sleep disturbances are more common in sub-arctic areas during the dark time of the year.[v] The message? If one wants to sleep well, sunlight exposure during the day is imperative.

This research on windows is particularly interesting because the effects of sunlight in that case could have had nothing to do with vitamin D, since the sunlight exposure came through windows, which block the UVB light that produces vitamin D. It is likely that the positive effects of sunlight in this case were produced by increasing serotonin levels (a natural mood enhancer) in the brain during the sunlight exposure, and then allowing melatonin (a natural relaxer) during the night.

Lack of sleep is a common, and perhaps deadly, malady. The sun is not our enemy, but a vital friend. Embrace it, but do not burn.

[i] Jang-Young Kim, Dhananjay Yadav, Song Vogue Ahn, , Sang-Baek Koh. A prospective study of total sleep duration and incident metabolic syndrome: the ARIRANG study. Sleep Medicine 2015;16:1511-1515.

[ii] http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2013/06/18/to-get-more-sleep-get-more-sunlight/

[iii] Gammack, J. Quoted in Medical News Today, April 10, 2005.

[iv] Ayoub AI, Attia M, El Kady HM, Ashour A. Insomnia among community dwelling elderly in Alexandria, Egypt. J Egypt Public Health Assoc. 2014 Dec;89(3):136-42.

[v] Bratlid T, Wahlund B. Alterations in serum melatonin and sleep in individuals in a sub-arctic region from winter to spring. Int J Circumpolar Health. 2003 Sep;62(3):242-54.

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Sunshine and Anaphylaxis—another Reason to Embrace the Sun.

By Marc Sorenson, EdD…

Anaphylaxis, or anaphylactic shock, is an extreme allergic reaction to a protein to which a person has been previously exposed.  It is characterized by a profound drop in blood pressure, severe itching and hives, and breathing difficulties. Untreated, it can be lethal.  A common cause is bee sting, although many drugs and foods trigger reactions in individuals.

Although anaphylaxis has many causes, one of the major associations with the reaction is sunlight, being much more prevalent in areas with less sunlight.[1] [2] [3] Interestingly, the frequency of hospital admissions for the condition has increased 5-7 fold in the last 10-15 years, although death from anaphylaxis has not increased.[4] That could be due to increasingly fast response to the condition by medical personnel.

Other research indicative of an association of sunlight deficiency to anaphylaxis involves the use of the anti-anaphylaxis drug, Epipen. When geographical location in the USA is compared to the number of prescriptions for the drug, a strong north-south gradient is apparent, [5] with the highest rates in Massachusetts and the lowest in Hawaii. People residing in southern states have about 25-30% of the risk of those residing in the New England. The same relationship is observed in Australia, where there EpiPen prescriptions are more frequent in the south than the north[6] as are hypoallergenic formula prescriptions.[7] (In Australia, the south is colder and has less sunlight, due to being in the southern hemisphere).

A similar relationship in the U.S. is shown with visits to the emergency room for acute allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, especially food-induced anaphylaxis.[8] The northeast region had more visits than the South. These studies establish that sunlight is protective against this potent reaction. Other research shows a similar geographic gradient with higher frequencies recorded in areas of little sun exposure,[9] such as those in children residing in northern countries.[10]

Regular, non-burning sunlight is an essential ingredient in the vibrant-health recipe for ourselves and our children. Embrace the sun!

[1] Tejedor-Alonso M A, Moro-Moro M, Múgica-García MV. Epidemiology of Anaphylaxis: Contributions from the Last 10 Years. J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol. 2015;25(3):163-75.

[2] Mullins RJ, Camargo CA. Latitude, sunlight, vitamin D, and childhood food allergy/anaphylaxis. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2012 Feb;12(1):64-71.

[3] Rudders SA, Camargo CA Jr. Sunlight, vitamin D and food allergy. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2015 Aug;15(4):350-7.

[4] Tejedor Alonso MA, Moro Moro M, Múgica García MV. Epidemiology of anaphylaxis. Clin Exp Allergy. 2015 Jun;45(6):1027-39.

[5] Camargo, C. et al. Regional differences in EpiPen prescriptions in the United States: the potential role of vitamin D. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2007;120:128-30

[6] Mullins RJ, Clark S, Camargo CA Jr. Regional variation in epinephrine autoinjector prescriptions in Australia: more evidence for the vitamin D-anaphylaxis hypothesis. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2009 Dec;103(6):488-95.

[7] Mullins RJ, Clark S, Camargo CA Jr. Regional variation in infant hypoallergenic formula prescriptions in Australia. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2010 Mar;21(2 Pt 2):e413-20.

[8] Rudders SA, Espinola JA, Camargo CA Jr. North-south differences in US emergency department visits for acute allergic reactions. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2010 May;104(5):413-6.

[9] Tejedor Alonso MA, Moro M, Múgica García MV. Epidemiology of anaphylaxis. Clin Exp Allergy. 2015 Jun;45(6):1027-39.

[10] Mullins RJ, Camargo CA. Latitude, sunlight, vitamin D, and childhood food allergy/anaphylaxis. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2012 Feb;12(1):64-71.


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Sunlight helps Children to reduce the Risk of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute

Often we are told that we are bad parents if we do not protect our children from the sun, and if we follow this heinous advice, we set our children up for a lifetime to compromised physical, mental and emotional health. I recently ran across a paper on sunlight exposure and its influence on children’s risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. This research definitely adds another compelling reason to be sure that our children do what is natural for them: play in the sun!

A seven-year investigation in Greece demonstrated that an increment of 15 days of sunbathing at Greek seaside resorts associated to a lower risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma of 40% but had no affect on Hodgkin lymphoma.[1]

This is important, because extrapolating to 30 days of sunbathing would predict an 80% reduced risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in these children.

Our children need to play in the sun and sunbathe optimal health. Good parents will ensure that their children regularly participate safely in those and other sunny activities. And no, they should not use sunscreens. When these children have had enough sun, they should come indoors, seek shade, and cover up with hats and other clothing. They should also develop a good tan as an excellent form of protection against overexposure.

[1] Petridou ET1, Dikalioti SK, Skalkidou A, Andrie E, Dessypris N, Trichopoulos D. Sun exposure, birth weight and childhood lymphomas: a case control study in Greece. Cancer Causes Control. 2007 Nov;18(9):1031-7.

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Summer Sunlight Exposure increases Growth in Children

By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute..

Just when one thinks that there is nothing new that sunlight can do, new research belies that idea. It has now been shown that among children who growth-hormone deficient, and are being treated for that deficiency, growth is more rapid during summer months.[1] In a one-year study using 118 children from 14 countries as subjects, growth was measured and compared to the amount of sunlight received by the children. Those who were exposed to more sunlight had faster growth. The investigators also implicated a role for circadian-clock pathways in influencing growth (see my previous blogs on the importance of sunlight in correctly setting the circadian clock).

Although this research was claimed to be the first to demonstrate an influence of sunlight on accelerated growth among children being treated with growth hormone, another investigation from 2013 came to the same conclusion. [2] Others have also observed that children seem to grow more rapidly in summer. [3] [4] [5]

We want our children to have reasonable rates of growth, and the vitamin D produced by sunlight may produce larger and stronger bones. Or, it may be another factor such as nitric oxide, serotonin, endorphins or other less studied photoproducts. Whatever the mechanism, we now know that sunlight has one more critically important effect on human health, this time for our children.

[1] De Leonibus C, Chatelain P, Knight C, Clayton P, Stevens A. Effect of summer daylight exposure and genetic background on growth in growth hormone-deficient children. Pharmacogenomics J. 2015 Oct 27. [Epub ahead of print].

[2] Dorothy I Shulman, James Frane, and Barbara Lippe. Is there “seasonal” variation in height velocity in children treated with growth hormone? Data from the National Cooperative Growth Study. Int J Pediatr Endocrinol. 2013; 2013(1): 2.

[3] Marshall WA. Evaluation of growth rate in height over periods of less than one year. Arch Dis Child. 1971;46:414–420.

[4] Lee PA. Independence of seasonal variation of growth from temperature change. Growth. 1980;44:54–57.

[5] Joseph Gigante, M.D, Banderbilt Children’s hospital, Nashville, Tennessee. http://www.parenting.com/article/way-kids-grow.

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More Horrors of Chemical Sunscreen

By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute..

A new article in Tech Times[i] reminded me of the sometimes terrible consequences of chemical sunscreen use. We know that melanoma incidence has paralleled the increase in sun exposure (see my previous blog), meaning that at best sunscreens are a waste of time and money, and at worst they are dangerous.

The dangers of chemical sunscreens are numerous in terms of health: feminization of humans, animals and fish are just a few. However, there is also a terrific environmental impact that has to do with the harm to the environment. A study from the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology regarding the detrimental effects of Oxybenzone, one of the worst (and most used) of the sunscreen ingredients, stated that Oxybenzone is a photo-toxicant, meaning that its adverse effects are exacerbated in the light.[ii] Does this chemical sound like something you’d like to apply to your skin while out in the sunlight?

The researchers also stated: “Oxybenzone is an emerging contaminant of concern in the marine environment.” The researchers found that a small dollop of sunscreen in six Olympic-sized pools caused a disruption of coral growth. Such disruption leads to a whitening and killing of the marine activity of the coral reefs. This is accomplished by ossification of a free-swimming larva called a planula, which kills it and stops the growth of coral reefs.

Here are a few of the other facts about oxybenzone and other chemical sunscreens:

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 2008 released a study showing that 96.8% of Americans at age six are contaminated with oxybenzone and that women were 3.5 times as likely to have high concentrations as men.[iii] The authors suggest that the greater use by women of personal-care products, most of which contain sunscreens, is the reason for their higher degree of contamination; oxybenzone is used in 588 sunscreens and in 567 other personal-care products.[iv]  An incredible 9% or more of the applied amount is absorbed through the skin.[v]

Pregnant mothers exposed to oxybenzone gave birth to babies with low birth weights,[vi] whichprograms” the developing child for greater risks of heart disease, hypertension, type-2 diabetes and other diseases in adulthood.[vii] Furthermore, sunlight causes the chemical to become a potent allergen[viii] [ix] and to form free radicals.[x]

Other dangers of sunscreen chemicals are their potential “gender-bending” characteristics; they increase estrogen and decrease testosterone in men[xi] [xii] and may be partly responsible for the nearly 50% reduction of sperm count in the last few decades.[xiii]  Sunscreen chemicals are also known to cause the feminization of fish,[xiv] and environmental pollution by these and similarly-structured chemicals are now thought to cause feminization in alligators and the gradual extinction of Florida panthers due to failure to breed.[xv]  

Sunscreens also increase the absorption of pesticides through the skin.[xvi] [xvii]  Think carefully about this information when you next see a sunscreen ad.

Enjoy the sun safely by covering up when you have had enough. Chemical sunscreens are not the answer.


[i] http://www.techtimes.com/articles/98181/20151022/sunscreen-ingredient-threatens-marine-life-heres-how-oxybenzone-kills-coral-reefs.htm

[ii] C. A. Downs , Esti Kramarsky-Winter, Roee Segal, John Fauth, Sean Knutson, Omri Bronstein, Frederic R. Ciner, Rina Jeger, Yona Lichtenfeld et al.  Toxicopathological Effects of the Sunscreen UV Filter, Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), on Coral Planulae and Cultured Primary Cells and Its Environmental Contamination in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology Oct 20 2015.

[iii] Calafat AM, Wong LY, Ye X, Reidy JA, Needham LL. Concentrations of the Sunscreen Agent, Benzophenone-3, in Residents of the United States: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003–2004. (available at http://dx.doi.org/).

[iv] Environmental Working Group: Americans Carry Body Burden of Toxic Sunscreen Chemical. March 25, 2008.  (available at http://www.ewg.org/node/26212).

[v] Hayden CG, Roberts MS, Benson HA. Systemic absorption of sunscreen after topical application. Lancet 1997:350:863-64.

[vi] Wolff MS, Engel SM, Berkowitz GS, Ye X, Silva MJ, Zhu C, Wetmur J, Calafat AM. Prenatal Phenol and Phthalate Exposures and Birth Outcomes.  National Institutes of Health USA Department of Health and Human Services.  doi:10.1289/ehp.11007 (available at http://dx.doi.org/)

[vii] Lau C, Rogers JM. 2004. Embryonic and fetal programming of physiological disorders in adulthood. Birth Defects Res C Embryo Today 2004;72:300-12.

[viii] Bryden AM, Moseley H, Ibbotson SH, Chowdhury MM, Beck MH, Bourke J, English J, Farr P, et al. Photopatch testing of 1155 patients: results of the U.K. multicentre photopatch group. The British Journal of Dermatology 155:737-47

[ix] Rodriguez E, Valbuena MC, Rey M, Porras de Quintana L. 2006. Causal agents of photoallergic contact dermatitis diagnosed in the national institute of dermatology of Colombia. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed 2006;22:189-92.

[x] Environmental Working Group: Americans Carry Body Burden of Toxic Sunscreen Chemical. March 25, 2008.  (available at http://www.ewg.org/node/26212).

[xi] Environmental Working Group: Americans Carry Body Burden of Toxic Sunscreen Chemical. March 25, 2008.  (available at http://www.ewg.org/node/26212).

[xii] Ma R, Cotton B, Lichtensteiger W, Schlumpf M. UV Filters with Antagonistic Action at Androgen Receptors in the MDA-kb2 Cell Transcriptional-Activation Assay.  Toxicological Sciences 2003;74:43-50.

[xiii] Pickart, L.  The Chemical Sunscreen Health Disaster 2000-2008.  (available at http://www.skinbiology.com/toxicsunscreens.html)

[xiv] Kunz PY, Galicia HF, Fent K. Comparison of in vitro and in vivo estrogenic activity of UV filters in fish. Toxicol Sci 2006:90:349-61.

[xv] Pickart, L.  The Chemical Sunscreen Health Disaster.  2000-2008.  (available at http://www.skinbiology.com/toxicsunscreens.html)

[xvi] Brand RM, Pike J, Wilson RM, Charron AR. Sunscreens containing physical UV blockers can increase transdermal absorption of pesticides. Toxicol Ind Health. 2003;19:9-16.

[xvii] Pont AR, Charron AR, Brand RM. Active ingredients in sunscreens act as topical penetration enhancers for the herbicide 2,4 dichlorophenoxyacetic acid. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2004;195:348-54.

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Is Sunlight Exposure Addictive? Thankfully, yes, because regular Sunlight Exposure PREVENTS Melanoma.

By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute…..


Before proceeding with the discussion on sunlight addiction, it is important to review the truth about sunlight and melanoma, to understand why sunlight addiction may be a good thing.

A recent report on ultraviolet light and addiction[1] is obviously meant to be a hit piece regarding sunlight exposure and tanning, as seen in the opening statement: “Despite widespread awareness that UV exposure is a major risk factor for all common cutaneous malignancies, skin cancer incidence relentlessly increases by ~3% per year.”

The “all common cutaneous malignancies” portion of this statement, of course, is patently false. Whereas the relatively benign common skin cancers are increased by exposure to sunlight, melanoma is increased by avoiding the sun. If the dramatic increase in melanoma over the past century were due to sunlight exposure, then sunlight exposure must also have increased dramatically during that time. To determine whether that has happened, we analyzed data from the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, (BLS) to determine if there was an increase or decrease in human sunlight exposure during the years from 1910 to 2,000.[2] The statistics showed that indoor occupations such as  “professional, managerial, clerical, sales, and service workers grew from one-quarter to three-quarters of total employment between 1910 and 2000.” BLS also stated that during the same period, the outdoor occupation of farming declined from 33% to 1.2% of total employment, a 96% reduction. The data also showed an approximately 66% decline in the occupation of farmers and 50% of the decline in the occupation of farm laborers.

The Environmental Protection Agency also determined that as of 1986, about 5 percent of adult men worked mostly outside, and that about 10 percent worked outside part of the time. The proportion of women who worked outside was thought to be even lower.[3] These data demonstrate a dramatic shift from outdoor, sun-exposed activity to indoor, non-sun-exposed activity during the mid-to-late 20th Century.

Despite these facts, the Melanoma International Foundation (MIF) has stated that melanoma has increased by 30 times (3,000%) just since 1935! Here is the statement by the MIF: “Melanoma is epidemic: rising faster than any other cancer and projected to affect one person in 50 by 2010, currently it affects 1 in 75. In 1935, only one in 1,500 was struck by the disease.”[4]  Indeed, the American Cancer Society in 2014 reported that one in 50 now contracts the disease.[5] That exponential increase in melanoma has been accompanied by a profound decrease in sunlight exposure, yet sunlight or other UV exposure is blamed for the melanoma increase—a totally counterintuitive argument! I submit that not only is sunlight not responsible for the exponential increase in melanoma, but that the decrease in sun exposure may be a major cause of that increase.

Here are other facts that belie the idea that melanoma is caused by sunlight exposure:

  1. Outdoor workers, while receiving 3-9 times the UVR exposure as indoor workers,[6] [7] have had no increase in melanoma since before 1940, whereas melanoma incidence in indoor workers has increased steadily and exponentially.
  2. Most melanomas occur on areas of the body that are seldom or never exposed to the sunlight.[8] [9] [10]
  3. The use of sunscreen, which has increased steadily, has not resulted in a decrease in melanoma.[11] In fact, melanoma has increased as sunscreen use has become more widespread. Since sunscreens block sunlight, it is evident that at best they are a waste of money and at worst may be contributing to the increase in melanoma.

Now, let’s discuss the research on the aforementioned addiction to sunlight. The researchers conducted various experiments on mice that showed behavior choices, such as desiring lighter rather than darker environments, were increased by regular exposure. These behavior choices were mediated by β-endorphins, peptide hormones which are similar to opiates. So is this all bad? This marvelous product, β-endorphin, is one of the feel-good hormones that decreases pain and increases a sense of well-being. The case the researchers make regarding addiction to sunlight is compelling, and why not? Sunlight exposure causes vitamin D production in the skin, which is essential to human health; it also stimulates the production of nitric oxide, which relaxes our vessels and lowers our blood pressure; it stimulates the production of serotonin in the brain, which is another feel-good hormone necessary for a happy mood and wellbeing. And considering the myriad additional effects of sunlight on health, including the prevention of cancer, the prevention and reversal of bone diseases and the reduction of heart disease, could it not be part of God’s (or Nature’s) master plan to develop a positive addiction to sunlight so than our health could be enhanced? I am a sunlight addict, and expose myself to it regularly for two reasons: (1) It marvelously improves my mood and (2) it protects me from disease and weakness. I am a light-skinned, blue-eyed Caucasian who has spent much of my seven decades on this earth seeking the sun. Yet, there have been no melanomas or even common skin cancer.

Nevertheless, the researchers summarize their paper on sun addiction with the following: “While primordial UV addiction, mediated by the hedonic [pertaining to pleasure] action of β-endorphin and anhedonic effects of withdrawal, may theoretically have enhanced evolutionary vitamin D biosynthesis, it now may contribute to the relentless rise in skin cancer incidence in man.”

That summary statement is claptrap, as can be seen by the research on melanoma and sunlight presented above. If sunlight is addictive and helps me to avoid melanoma, heart disease, bone loss and other maladies, I can only say, “hooray for the addiction!”

[1] Gillian L. Fell, Kathleen C. Robinson, Jianren Mao, Clifford J. Woolf, and David E.

Fisher. Skin β-endorphin mediates addiction to ultraviolet light. Cell. 2014 June 19; 157(7): 1527–1534.

[2] Ian D. Wyatt and Daniel E. Hecker.  Occupational changes in the 20th century.  Monthly Labor Review, March 2006 pp 35-57:  Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics

[3] U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Catching Our Breath: Next Steps for Reducing Urban Ozone, OTA-O-412 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, July 1989).

[4] Melanoma International Foundation, 2007 Facts about melanoma. Sources: National Cancer Institute 2007 SEER Database, American Cancer Society’s 2007 Facts and Figures, The Skin Cancer Foundation, The American Academy of Dermatology.

[5] American Cancer Society. Melanoma Skin Cancer Overview 9/16/2014. Accessed on 9/23/2014 at http://www.cancer.org/cancer/skincancer-melanoma/overviewguide/melanoma-skin-cancer-overview-key-statistics

[6] Godar D. UV doses worldwide. Photochem Photobiol 2005;81:736–49.

[7] Thieden E, Philipsen PA, Sandby-Møller J, Wulf HC. UV radiation exposure related to age, sex, occupation, and sun behavior based on time-stamped personal dosimeter readings. Arch Dermatol 2004;140:197–203.

[8] Garland FC, White MR, Garland CF, Shaw E, Gorham ED. Occupational sunlight exposure and melanoma in the USA Navy. Arch Environ Health 1990; 45:261-67.

[9] Rivers, J.  Is there more than one road to melanoma? Lancet 2004;363:728-30.

[10] Crombie, I. Racial differences in melanoma incidence.  Br J Cancer 1979;40:185-93.

[11] Phillippe Autier. Do high factor Sunscreens offer protection from melanoma? West J Med. 2000 Jul; 173(1): 58.

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Sunlight for Babies, Part Two

By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute

Babies and their mothers need Sunlight! Research published in October, 2015[i] is supremely important and establishes two important facts:

  1. Children born in summer are more likely to be healthy when they become adults.
  2. When women get more sunlight during pregnancy, it leads to a higher birth weight for their babies, and later puberty for girls.

Girls born in the months of June, July and August, according to the research, have a higher birthweight and later puberty, which have profound, positive impacts on overall health in women as adults. And girls born in the sunny months are also taller as adults. Later puberty is associated with a lesser risk of breast cancer,[ii] and it is likely that other health problems are associated with early puberty, which is also closely related to the type of food consumed. Soda pop consumption, for example, is associated with early puberty.[iii] Low birthweight babies also have problems such as increased risk of autism, lower cognitive function and increased risk attention-deficit hyperactivity.[iv]

Anything that can reduce the risk of these disorders should be considered critical to the health of the baby and essential to the progression to adulthood. Sunlight exposure for both the pregnant mother and her newborn should be the sine qua non for child’s wellbeing. Coupled with a decent nutrition program, sans soda pop and junk foods, it can assist the child to a healthful and productive life.

[i] http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-10/e-cbi100715.php Accessed October 13, 2015

[ii] Ambrosone CB, Zirpoli G, Hong CC, Yao S, Troester MA, Bandera EV, Schedin P, Bethea TN, Borges V, Park SY, Chandra D, Rosenberg L, Kolonel LN, Olshan AF, Palmer JR. Important Role of Menarche in Development of Estrogen Receptor-Negative Breast Cancer in African American Women. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2015 Jun 17;107(9).

[iii] Carwile JL, Willett WC, Spiegelman D, Hertzmark E, Rich-Edwards J, Frazier AL, Michels KB. Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and age at menarche in a prospective study of US girls. Hum Reprod 2015 Mar;30(3):675-83.

[iv] Ochiai M, Ichiyama M, Iwayama M, Sakai Y, Yoshida K, Hara T. Longitudinal study of very low birth weight infants until 9years of age; attention deficit hyperactivity and autistic features are correlated with their cognitive functions. Early Hum Dev. 2015 Oct 3. [Epub ahead of print].

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More Research on Multiple Sclerosis (MS): Highest Sunlight Exposure as a Teenager predicts later Age of Onset of MS.

By Marc Sorenson, EdD, Sunlight Institute

Although several of my posts on the Sunlight Institute have discussed sunlight and MS, this post will provide the results of the most recent paper that I am aware of, and it reviews some of the most important investigations showing that sunlight exposure is absolutely essential for preventing or mitigating the disease.

MS is a disease in which the myelin sheaths (nerve coverings and insulators) are destroyed, leaving nerves bare and susceptible to “short circuiting.” This process is known as demyelination. New research, which should surprise no one, demonstrates that teenagers who have the greatest exposure to sunlight have a delayed onset of MS as adults.[1] The study involved 1,161 Danish patients with MS who were given questionnaires regarding their sun-exposure habits and body-mass index (BMI) as teenagers. BMI is a measure of obesity (or the lack thereof). Besides sunlight, other vitamin-D predicting measures were also used to determine the probable cause of MS.

Interestingly, only sunlight exposure and lower BMI were associated with later age at the onset of the disease; other serum vitamin D predictors such as fish consumption did not show any association with MS. The authors still seemed to feel that vitamin D was the reason for the extended time before disease onset; however, that is unlikely, since other predictors of higher vitamin D levels showed no association. And, it has been shown that sunlight exposure has profoundly protective effects against MS, independently of vitamin D.[2] Researchers determined to find the mechanism by which sunlight exposure suppressed the disease and found that UV light selectively inhibits spinal cord inflammation and demyelination.[3] In that study, they performed an investigation in which ultraviolet radiation (UVR)—the same radiation that is found in sunlight and tanning beds—was administered to animals who suffered from experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE).  EAE is MS that has been deliberately induced in animals in a laboratory setting. The researchers found that the UVR treatments stopped inflammation and demyelination of the spinal cord by inhibiting a chemical known as a chemokine, also known as a cytokine. Chemokines are the cause of the inflammation and autoimmune attacks that result in MS. The MS-ameliorating effects in the study were directly initiated by UVR, independent of vitamin D.

Stunningly, another study by some of these same investigators determined that vitamin D was actually necessary for EAE to take place![4]  Mice that lacked the vitamin D receptor, which causes vitamin D deficiency, had a markedly lower risk of developing EAE. In those mice that had receptors but were simply vitamin D deficient, the development of EAE was also partially suppressed. I do not look on this research as proving that vitamin D sufficiency leads to MS, but it certainly indicates that sunlight exposure, independent of vitamin D, is absolutely critical to prevent and ameliorate this frightening disease.

The bottom line? Be sure to get plenty of non-burning sun exposure!

[1] Julie Hejgaard Laursen, MD, PhD, Helle Bach Søndergaard, MSc, PhD, Per Soelberg Sørensen, MD, DMSc, Finn Sellebjerg, MD, PhD and Annette Bang Oturai, MD, PhD. Association between age at onset of multiple sclerosis and vitamin D level–related factors. Neurology 2015, Published online before print October 7, 2015.

[2] Becklund BR, Severson KS, Vang SV, DeLuca HF.  UV radiation suppresses experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis independent of vitamin D production.  Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010;107:6418-23.

[3] Wang Y, Marling SJ, Beaver EF, Severson KS, Deluca HF. UV light selectively inhibits spinal cord inflammation and demyelination in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. Arch Biochem Biophys. 2015 Feb 1;567:75-82.

[4] Wang Y, Marling SJ, Zhu JG, Severson KS, DeLuca HF. Development of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in mice requires vitamin D and the vitamin D receptor. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 May 29;109(22):8501-4.

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