by Mar Oscategui
Over the years I have witnessed an increasing amount of concern over sun exposure due to ozone depletion, global warming, and skin cancer along with an increase in sunscreen usage and warnings to deal with this concern. Likewise in the last few years, there has been a huge increase in the studies showing the health benefits of sunshine and sun exposure has now been shown to prevent literally dozens of major illnesses including cancer. There is no question that too much of anything, even something that is essential and good for you, can become a problem. Clearly one can overdose on vitamins, herbs, drugs, and even water. Too much of just about anything can become toxic in the body. It’s the same with our good friend the sun. Sunshine has tremendous health benefits and many scientists have been finding through their research that exposure to sunshine as little as 15 minutes a day 3 times per week has been shown to ward of all sorts of illness and disease, and greatly affect the mood and those battling depression. Sunshine also regulates and balances hormone levels and circadian rhythms so those with sleep issues can also benefit from more sun exposure.
According to a study discussed in Scientific American, “Vitamin D deficiency soars in the U.S.”, as three-quarters of U.S. teens and adults are now deficient in vitamin D, the so-called “sunshine vitamin”. Vitamin D deficits are increasingly blamed for everything from cancer and heart disease to diabetes, according to new research.
What’s also important to understand is that the kind of Vitamin D that sunshine provides is not of the same substance that can be found in a supplement. The so called ‘Vitamin D’ produced when sun hits the skin, is actually a hormone, not a vitamin. The sunshine hormone has been shown to boost the absorption of nearly every vitamin and mineral that enters the body. The other side of this is that studies have also show that the cells in the eyes properly divide only in the presence of sunlight. Other research has shown the role of sunlight on the pineal gland and its cascading effects in the glandular system of the body, including its strong effects on the hypothalamus which some people consider the master gland.
The problem with this being widely recognized is that there is a whole industry of sun tan lotions, sun protection cosmetics, sunglasses, and dermatologists warning people left and right about sun damage. With that said, the amount of sunshine needed and what is excessive or considered dangerous will vary from person to person and is related to a number of factors including: genetics, medical history, culture, geography, the time of day, skin color, the season, whether they just showered and used soaps which wash off the body’s natural oils/protectants, the amount of time spent in the sun previously, and much more.
Another irony in all of this is that recent research has shown Vitamin D to be perhaps the most important nutrient of all in preventing skin cancer, yet somehow the sun has been blamed for nearly all skin cancers. An interesting fact: There is no hard evidence that regular, moderate sun exposure causes melanomas, for example.
According to an article Does Sunshine Actually Decrease Dangerous Melanoma Skin Cancers? By Dr Mercola on April 28 2012:
Sensible Sunlight is Protective Against Melanoma. Exposure to sunlight, particularly UVB, is protective against melanoma — or rather, the vitamin D your body produces in response to UVB radiation is protective. As written in The Lancet:
“Paradoxically, outdoor workers have a decreased risk of melanoma compared with indoor workers, suggesting that chronic sunlight exposure can have a protective effect.”
A study in Medical Hypotheses suggested that indoor workers may have increased rates of melanoma because they’re exposed to sunlight through windows, and only UVA light, unlike UVB, can pass through window glass. At the same time, these indoor workers, who get three to nine times less solar UV exposure than outdoor workers, are missing out on exposure to the beneficial UVB rays, and have lower levels of vitamin D. The study even noted that indoor UV actually breaks down vitamin D3 formed after outdoor UVB exposure, which would therefore make vitamin D3 deficiency and melanoma risk even worse.
Some people might argue against all this, citing data showing that skin cancer is on the rise, yet this overlooks the fact that all cancers are on the rise.
According to an article Obesity-Linked Cancers Increased in The Wall Street Journal on March 28 2012:
Several cancers linked to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle rose every year from 1999 through 2008, even as improved screening and a sharp decline in the number of smokers have helped push down the rate of new cancer diagnoses overall across the U.S., according to a report released Wednesday.
Rates of cancers of the kidney, pancreas, lower esophagus and uterus increased annually through 2008, the latest data available, according to the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer. Rates of breast cancer in women at least 50 years old declined 1.3% annually from 1999 to 2005 but rose slightly between 2005 and 2008.