Is Sunbathing Actually a Good Thing?

(Ivanhoe Newswire) – Many of us associate basking in the sun's rays as harmful to our health. The outcome may be wrinkles, eye damage, or even worse, a deadly form of skin cancer like melanoma; however, researchers say certain populations, particularly those in the Northern Hemisphere, may want to ignore their doctor's advice to stay out of the sun to benefit from the cancer-fighting nutrient vitamin D.

An essential nutrient for human health, vitamin D protects against internal cancers such as colon, breast, lung and prostate, and may also prevent other diseases. Sunlight, particularly exposure to UVB and visible rays, plays a key role in the activation of vitamin D in the body.

A new study reveals because of their location to the equator, Australians produce 3.4 times more vitamin D than people in the United Kingdom, and 4.8 times more than those in Scandinavia. And while there is an increase in cancer among populations closer to the equator, there is also a higher rate of survival.

So how do you get the best of both worlds: sufficient vitamin D and healthy skin? Since melanoma is caused by UVA rays, Richard Setlow, Ph.D., study author and a Senior Biophysicist Emeritus at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., suggests creating a sunscreen that allows the absorption of only the vitamin D producing radiation.

"Perhaps we should redesign sunscreens so they don't screen out as much UVB, while still protecting us from the melanoma-inducing UVA and visible light," Setlow was quoted as saying.

Others suggest rather than changing our sunscreen, we should increase our vitamin D intake through foods such as cod liver oil, milk, and dietary supplements.

SOURCE: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online, Jan. 7, 2008
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