Experts have warned us about sun exposure for years. We’ve been told that too much sun can cause the deadly skin cancer melanoma.
But studies on sun exposure have presented us with a paradox: people who sunbathe are likely to live longer than those who avoid the sun, even though sunbathers are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer.
Researchers in Sweden have been studying this mystery for decades.
They have been following 29,518 Swedish women for over 20 years. In 2014, they announced that they found that those who avoid sunshine are twice as likely to die than those who sunbathe every day.
Now, a new analysis of information on those women revealed that longer life expectancy among those with active sun exposure habits was related to a decrease in heart disease and non-cancer/non-heart disease deaths, causing the relative contribution of death due to cancer to increase.
Whether the positive effect of sun exposure demonstrated in this observational study is linked to vitamin D, another mechanism related to UV radiation, or by unmeasured bias cannot be determined. Therefore, additional research is needed.
Dr. Pelle Lindqvist, lead author of the study, said of the findings:
We found smokers in the highest sun exposure group were at a similar risk as non-smokers avoiding sun exposure, indicating avoidance of sun exposure to be a risk factor of the same magnitude as smoking. Guidelines being too restrictive regarding sun exposure may do more harm than good for health.