Lifestyle & Belief

Sun exposure is healthy, outweighs dangers of skin cancer, scientists say


Meditation, Oz style? Beachgoers relax on inflatable thongs at Bondi Beach in Sydney on "Australia Day," Jan. 26, 2011. Australia Day, formerly known as Foundation Day, is the official national day of Australia and is celebrated annually on January 26 to commemorate the arrival of the First Fleet to Sydney in 1788.


Sergio Dionisio

How can something as pleasant and relaxing as lying in the sun be bad for you? It turns out that it might not be. While sunlight is dangerous for your skin, the rest of your body benefits from sun exposure, new research shows.

The research will be presented this week in Edinburgh at International Investigative Dermatology 2013, the world's largest gathering of skin experts.The abstract was published online in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

Previously, the only known benefit to sun exposure was Vitamin D production. But in a new study from Edinburgh University, dermatologists found that volunteers who were exposed to the sun's UV rays had lower blood pressure afterward than volunteers exposed to heat lamps. 

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Medical News Today described the study as a "landmark." The research was able to prove that when sunlight touches our skin, that a blood pressure-lowering compound called nitric oxide is released. 

"We suspect that the benefits to heart health of sunlight will outweigh the risk of skin cancer," Dr. Richard Weller, a senior lecturer in dermatology at Edinburgh University, and study leader, told BBC News.

"If this confirms that sunlight reduces the death rate from all causes, we will need to reconsider our advice on sun exposure," he added.

In 2011, a study from London found another potential benefit of sun exposure: it might prevent chickenpox.