Sun Exposure Beneficial Despite the Risk of Melanoma

Though sunbathers are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer, women who sunbathe are likely to live longer than those who avoid the sun.
Though sunbathers are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer, women who sunbathe are likely to live longer than those who avoid the sun.

Though sunbathers are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer, women who sunbathe are likely to live longer than those who avoid the sun. Active sun exposure among women with habits of time in the sun was linked to a decrease in cardiovascular disease and a decrease in mortality from noncancer and noncardiovascular causes compared with those who avoid sun exposure.1

This study analyzed 20 years of follow-up data on 29 518 Swedish women in the Melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort. The women were recruited from 1990 to 1992 and were age 25 to 64 years at the time of recruitment.

The sunbathers in the study had a longer life expectancy, decreased heart disease, and decreased noncancer and non-heart disease deaths. So, the relative contribution of death due to cancer increased.

The authors suggested that the benefits of sun exposure might be mediated by vitamin D, by another mechanism related to UV radiation, or by unmeasured bias. They could not determine the cause.

“UV exposure might have opposing effects on different health issues,” stated the authors. They stated that guidelines should be based on carefully weighing both benefits and hazards.

"We found smokers in the highest sun exposure group were at a similar risk as nonsmokers avoiding sun exposure, indicating avoidance of sun exposure to be a risk factor of the same magnitude as smoking," said Pelle Lindqvist, MD, of the Karolinska Institutet in Solna, Sweden, and lead author of the study. "Guidelines being too restrictive regarding sun exposure may do more harm than good for health."

REFERENCE

1. Lindqvist PG, Epstein E, Nielsen K, et al. Avoidance of sun exposure as a risk factor for major causes of death: a competing risk analysis of the Melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort [published online ahead of print March 16, 2016]. J Int Med. doi:10.1111/joim.12496.

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