A recent article, published in the Journal of Internal Medicine on March 16, 2016, found that folks who avoided sun exposure had a decreased life expectancy, similar to smokers who bathed in the sun.
This study looked at almost 30,000 participants (females ages 25 – 64 year old with no history of malignancy) over a span of 20 years.
Researchers followed participants for over 20 years and tracked health outcomes and life span.
What did they find?
Researchers found that even when smoking was factored in, the life span of those who avoided the sun was over 2 years shorter than heavy smokers who got the highest amount of sun exposure!!!
So even heavy smokers who soaked in the sun their whole life outlived non-smokers who avoided sun exposure… by several years.
Participants who avoided the sun had higher rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and pulmonary disease.
And the results were dose-specific… meaning that the benefits of increased life expectancy with sun exposure went up directly in correlation to the amount of sun exposure. Longer time in the sun = longer life span. That simple.
And yes, though risk of skin cancer did increase with increased sun exposure, the patients that had skin cancer occur in relation to sun exposure actually had a better long-term prognosis! This on top of recent research revealing that melanomas that occur in patients with low Vitamin D actually have more malignantly aggressive melanoma and their prognosis is worse than those with adequate Vit D from sun exposure.
These results show that avoiding the sun is a “risk factor for death of a similar magnitude as smoking” — directly quoting the medical report.
Under-exposure to the sun is actually dangerous.
Avoiding the sun is comparable to smoking in terms of decreasing life expectancy.
Worse, actually… by several years.
Smoking and inactivity (proglonged sitting, as I blog about here) have long been known to be huge lifestyle indicators of poor long term health… and now we can add a third: avoiding sun exposure.
I’ve long blogged about the importance of Vit D — how it:
- decreases diabetes risk
- lifts mood
- enhances your weight loss benefits
- and protects your brain and your bones
…so it makes sense that Vit D may be the protective mechanism of action in prolonging life expectancy. Hopefully there are studies ongoing right now to look into this further.
In the meanwhile, don’t totally avoid the sun.
You know that I never ever ever present negative medical information without giving you tons of positive solutions!! So you know if I am bringing it up on my blog here, then there are TONS of things you can do to make your time out in the sunshine safer for your skin, while boosting your whole-body disease prevention and prolonging your life span!
I’ll just tell you upfront that sunscreen is not my number one recommendation for prevention of skin cancer. Nor is it my second recommendation either.
I prefer to avoid peak sun hours and use sun protective clothing like rashguards, hats and sunglasses.
- Some chemicals in sunscreen (like the oils, petroleum products, and retinyl palmitate found in most sunscreens) have been shown to actually increase the rates of skin cancer lesions, when directly applied to the skin.
- On top of that, many of the chemicals in chemical blocking sunscreens are shown to disrupt our natural hormone pathways. In fact, oxybenzone, the most COMMON chemical sunscreen used, has been shown to disrupt hormones and is *not* (repeat NOT) recommended for use in children. That’s right… look at all the “kid’s formula” sunscreens out there… they generally contain oxybenzone. This chemical not only is a hormone-disruptor, but it is particularly well absorbed (which is why it is so commonly used) so applying to your skin it becomes internally absorbed within minutes. Which means children, who are still growing, are getting systemic doses of hormone-disrupting oxybenzone circulating through their bodies on a daily basis all summer long.
- More bad news… mineral based sunscreens are increasingly being made in nano-sized particles so that they blend into the skin better… and unfortunately, this means they can potentially be absorbed systemically as well. Even mineral based sunscreens like zinc or titanium dioxide are potentially toxic if they enter your body, so you want to be sure your product does not use nanoparticles.
- ALL sunscreens — even the most organic sunscreens — have a drawback of decreasing your Vit D levels. All sunscreens (chemical and physical) effectively decrease your skin’s ability to manufacture Vitamin D. You really can’t underestimate how important Vitamin D is… it has been shown to prevent cancers, strokes, heart disease, boost your immune system, strengthen bones, prevent osteoporosis, decrease mental disorders. We need it. Point blank.
- Most of us are vit D deficient. If you don’t get daily sun exposure, take a Vit D supplement. If you use sunscreen, take a Vitamin D supplement. If you work inside or go to school all day long… you must take a Vitamin D supplement (I like Biotics Vit D emulsion…)
- Also, sunscreens give the user a false confidence… at least with no protection, redness develops and gives us a common sense indicator to GET OUT OF THE SUN and to be much more careful next time! With sunscreen use… all common sense is gone. With no threat of a sunburn… sun exposure can continue on double and even triple the length of time that one would normally be in the sun.
But there is good news too.
Lots of different ways to protect your skin:
- The most important #1 way to protect from ultraviolet exposure is to avoid the sun during the peak UV hours in mid-day. There was a huge medical study that backs this up… Sunscreen was third in order of most effective ways to protect yourself from sun damage and skin cancers.
- The ultimate solution, when possible, is sun avoidance during peak sun hours (10AM – 4PM) — this is infinitely better than any sun protection. You want to get some incidental sun exposure on some exposed skin daily, but to decrease the UV intensity you want that exposure to be in the earlier AM or later PM hours!
- The second best way to protect from the sun, if you are going out in the peak hours, is uv protective clothing. Rash guards, hats, sunglasses. Be certain to protect your eyes by wearing UV protective sunglasses, dear reader! UV exposure is one of the leading causes of lens opacity (cataracts) as you age. You can prevent this by diligently protecting your eyes.
- The third? A non-nanosized, non-chemical based sunscreen like this one from Acure Organics.
Enjoy the longer spring days and warmer nights and use this common sense approach, combined with this fantastic sunscreen when absolutely needed, to protect your skin from future cancers.
Next week I’ll be back to address another common warm weather skin care question… yeast overgrowth!
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