Radiation is everywhere. Mostly, radiation comes from the sun. You’ve probably received a lot of information in recent years about how excessive sun exposure can lead to skin cancer, and how excessive tanning can lead to faster aging. Like most people, you probably follow your doctor’s advice about avoiding sunburn. But that doesn’t mean you should be worried about moderate sun exposure. In fact, a little bit of sun can offer a host of health benefits.
Believe it or not, the sun’s radiation can help processes in your body work better when you synthesize vitamin D from the sun’s rays. Research suggests that you could reduce your risk of getting MS, diabetes, cancer, the flu, and arthritis. And now one more health benefit can be added to the list: moderate sun exposure could reduce your chances of dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD).
A research team wanted to investigate the association between mortality and solar and artificial UV exposure in individuals. They used data from the Swedish Women’s Lifestyle and Health cohort study, which included women aged 30 to 49 years in 1991-1992. All the participants from the study completed a questionnaire and were followed up on through linkages to national registries until the end of 2006.
During 15 years of follow-up, the researchers found that, among the 38,472 women included in the study, 754 deaths occurred: 457 due to cancer and 100 due to CVD. When combining the information on sun exposure from age 10 to 39 years, women who got sunburned twice or more per year during adolescence had reduced all-cause mortality, compared with women who had been sunburned once or less.
Now here’s some more good news: a reduced risk for all-cause and CVD mortality was observed in women who went on sunbathing vacations more than once a year over three decades. On the other hand, solarium use once or more per month for at least one decade increased the risk of all-cause mortality, when compared with women who never used a solarium.
The research team concluded that solar UV exposure was associated with reduced overall and CVD mortality, whereas artificial UV exposure was associated with increased overall and cancer mortality among Swedish women.
Just remember that the message here is moderation. Just because the sun offers some health benefits doesn’t mean that you should go crazy. You still need to wear sunscreen if you’ve been in the sun for more than 10 minutes or so; it’s all about common sense.