Benefits of Unprotected Sun Exposure
Mainstream media and the medical community warn to avoid the sun, and to use sunscreen, to protect us from skin cancer. However, research shows that vitamin D synthesized through sun exposure, protects us from many forms of cancer. 1 Moderate sun exposure is imperative to our health. Sunscreen use, especially higher SPF, blocks the production of Vitamin D synthesis from sunlight 2 and many contain neurotoxins and hormone disruptors. There are many reasons why we need some sun exposure, and should stop fearing the sun all together. Women with active sunlight exposure habits experience a lower mortality rate than women who avoid sun exposure. 3
Nonsmokers who avoided sun exposure had a life expectancy similar to smokers in the highest sun exposure group, indicating that avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor for death of a similar magnitude as smoking 4
Vitamin D plays many roles within the body, and clinical studies strongly suggest that vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of developing several types of cancer 5 Every tissue in the body has Vitamin D receptors. 6 The recommendations by the World Health Organization and the Surgeon General, are to avoid the sun during peak times, 10am- 2pm, and to cover up any exposed areas with high SPF and protective clothing. However, this peak sun time is when Vitamin D is synthesized.
Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with:
Increased sun exposure protects against various types of cancer, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and many other conditions. 8 Although neglecting the sun during this peak time may reduce the risk of certain skins melanomas, it increases the risk of many other cancers and cardiovascular conditions.
Sun exposure not only increases our Vitamin D production, thus preventing the onset of many health conditions. There are other health benefits to sun exposure as well. UVA rays have been shown to have an effect on lowering diastolic blood pressure, which in turn decreases the risk of stroke and heart disease significantly. 9 The sun’s UVB also helps with thickening the outer layer of skin, and increasing melanin, thus protecting the deeper layers of skin from damaging rays. The best time for UVB ray exposure is between 10am and 3pm. 10
There are many other benefits to sun exposure, such as beta-endorphin production in the skin, through UVB exposure. These endorphins help to increase our overall sense of well-being.
Opioid peptides have the result of increasing a feeling of well-being, boosting the immune system, relieving pain, promoting relaxation, wound healing, and cellular differentiation’ 11
Sunlight is also necessary to help regulate our circadian rhythms, or sleep wake cycle. The evolution of sleep involves a natural environment of dark and light, with sun being the primary source of lighting. Electrical lighting is associated with less sunlight during the day, and increased exposure to artificial lighting after sunset. This delays the circadian clock and affects sleep cycles. 13
Although sunscreen use is continuously recommended by professionals and used globally, malignant melanoma is still on the rise. It’s still debatable how effective sunscreen is, and many of the ingredients are shown to have neurotoxic effects on the body. 14 The inorganic and possibly neurotoxic ingredients in many sunscreens has been shown to penetrate the skin. Plus, we often eat after applying sunscreen, and therefore small amounts are ingested as well. Swimming in and drinking contaminated water, are other routes of absorption.
The endocrine disruptive and developmental toxicity of many organic UV filters in experimental models is well established, these filters seem to be associated with altered estrogen, androgen and progesterone activity, reproductive and developmental toxicity and impaired functioning of the thyroid, liver or kidneys
Some of the components found in sunscreens that have been shown to have neurotoxic and hormone disruptive effects include:
Although the use of sunscreen may prevent some forms of melanoma, the question remains, how safe and effective are these products? According to Chris Kresser, even zinc oxide can oxidize when exposed to UV rays, which can cause cellular damage and increase the risk of cancer. Scientists are finding levels of these neurotoxins building up in both humans and wildlife. 16 The effects of neurotoxins and hormone disrupting chemicals may be quite consequential for our health, much more so than the risk of sun exposure.
How can we safely get adequate sunlight to support our health without burning?
There are many health benefits to getting moderate sun exposure without sunscreen. Getting burned by the sun does increase the risk of melanoma. However, getting sun exposure without burning decreases the risk of many cancers. Rather than avoiding the sun all together, we should focus on decreasing our risk of burning without sunscreens.
About the Author:
Kathryn is a functional nutritional therapist, author, editor, and mama of two boys. She enjoys spending her free time out in nature-hiking and fishing. You can find her at www.primalmusings.com and her book “Forties on Fire” can be found on Amazon.