Medicinal Sunlight: The Case for Sunshine
(originally published Dec. 10, 2008 – Suite101.com)
Forget everything you’ve heard about the dangers of “harmful” UV rays or applying sunscreen every time you step outside. Recent research has found that exposure to sunlight may in reality reduce the incidence of many forms of cancer and a number of degenerative diseases, including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
More often than not, research is finding that moderate sun exposure is healthy while the contraction of skin cancer is due more to overexposure and burning. And while traditional advice is to wear sunscreen, studies show that it doesn’t prevent melanoma (the worst form of skin cancer) and that most popular brands contain numerous harmful toxins that may themselves cause cancer.
It’s even been suggested that diet plays a key role. According to the August 2000 edition of Cancer Research, having too much omega-6 oil in your diet (typical for North Americans) can lead to a chemical reaction in your skin that’s conducive to cancer development. Alternatively, they found that omega-3 oil prevents skin cancer.
WHY IS SUNLIGHT HEALTHY?
So far, what’s most clearly understood is that sunlight, specifically UV-B rays, stimulates the production of vitamin D. In fact, in just 30 minutes of sunbathing, the average person can naturally generate up to 20,000 IU of this important vitamin.
Vitamin D has itself been shown to alleviate or cure a host of chronic illnesses, including up to 16 types of cancer! While inexpensive vitamin D supplements are widely available, the easiest and most efficient way to get your daily dose is by simply spending time out in the sun with a minimum of clothing. Unfortunately, northern latitudes don’t always have this ability.
So compelling is the evidence on vitamin D (and, by extension, sunlight), in June 2007 the Canadian Cancer Society announced that all Canadians should take 1000 IU of vitamin D per day at least during the fall and winter months when sunlight is at a minimum. This is more than double the FDA’s recommendation of 400 IU.
WHAT THE RESEARCH SAYS
A study published in the journal Cancer in March 2002 compared 506 regions in N. American and Western Europe and found that cancer mortality went up where levels of UV-B light was lowest.
Building on that research, a study published in Nutrition Reviews in August 2007 estimated that 250,000 cases of colorectal cancer, 350,000 cases of breast cancer, and up to 1 million deaths from other diseases could be prevented worldwide by simply increasing intake of vitamin D3 (the natural form of the vitamin).
In the realm of degenerative diseases, the 2000 edition of Occupational and Environmental Medicine reported that mortality from multiple sclerosis (MS) was found to be reduced by up to 76% from exposure to sunlight.
While not every aspect is perfectly defined, it is clear that sunlight is not as unhealthy as traditional thinking has led people to believe. Through the action of vitamin D, numerous diseases, including many types of cancer, can be prevented or cured by just getting enough sunlight every day. The key is to not get so much that you burn or damage your skin.
Finally, no one knows the exact amount of optimal sun exposure since so many factors are involved, including skin color, resistance to burning, geographical location, seasonal variations, individual vitamin D levels, etc. However, it’s good advice to get some amount of sun each day and take a high-quality vitamin D3 supplement when you can’t.
For more information, visit The Sunlight, Nutrition And Health Research Center (SUNARC)