Health

Is The Sun Good For You?

Is The Sun Good For You?
Vitamin D production
Prevention and Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)
Treatment of Sleep Disorders
Reduced Symptoms of Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (P.M.S.)
Treatment of Psoriasis
Reduction in Some Cancers
Prevention of Skin Cancer
Treatment of Skin Cancer
More Information


Is The Sun Good For You

by Stephane Deschênes, Federation of Canadian Naturists 

sun1As human beings, we seem to have a need to label things as either good or bad. What we think is good we tend to do to excess. What we think is bad
we try to avoid completely or we do it with much guilt.

Alcohol is a good example. In the 20th century, there has been a widely held belief that alcohol is bad. It has been banned, restricted, and shunned in the belief that it causes serious harm to our social, psychological, and physical sides. It is true that when abused, some of the effects of alcohol are relationship problems, liver disease, and even cancer.

sun2However, the past few decades have also shown that alcohol can have very beneficial effects. Study after study has shown a correlation between moderate alcohol consumption (wine in particular) and lower heart disease. The medical community now suggests that in moderation, alcohol is not harmful and has some positive health effects.

The sun is currently being treated in a similar manner. Some studies have shown correlations between sun exposure and skin cancer. Our reaction has been to label the sun as‘bad’.

We now try to avoid it completely. We hide from it. We shun it.

sun3We hear some people and doctors say “There’s no such thing as a safe tan” or “A tan is skin damage.” Yet we enjoy the sun so much that we still do it. However, we either ignore the issues or feel guilty about it. We try to find solutions, like sunblock, that allow us to continue to enjoy the sun. Unfortunately, once we feel protected, we once again tend to over-expose ourselves. Perhaps like alcohol, the solution lies in moderate use. The sun has many beneficial health effects. We all know that the sun can make us feel happier and more relaxed. There is also some scientific evidence of other benefits:

Vitamin D production

Vitamin D is essential to good health. Lack of vitamin D is associated with diseases like rickets, osteoporosis, and osteomalacia. Few foods have vitamin D. Attempts have been made to add vitamin D to milk but a US study showed that only 30% of samples tested contained sufficient vitamin D.

Vitamin D has a lifespan of only about one week. The most efficient source of vitamin D is the sun. However, the use of a sunscreen of SPF 8 or more has been shown to inhibit vitamin D production.

Source: Matsuoko L., L.Ide, J. Wortsman, J.A. MacLaughlan, M.F.Holick, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 1987, 64:pp.1165-1168

Prevention and Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)

The lower light levels of the winter seasons have been shown to cause a psychological state known as S.A.D. Individuals with S.A.D. suffer from prolonged periods of something akin to depression. Symptoms can include poor appetite and significant weight loss, or the reverse; insomnia, or increased sleep; agitation, or retardation, of movement and thought; loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities or decrease in sexual drive; fatigue and loss of energy; feelings of worthlessness, self-reproach, or excessive or inappropriate guilt; diminished ability to concentrate, or indecisiveness; and in extreme cases, recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts.

Normal indoor lighting does not help cure S.A.D. However, exposure to sunlight does.

Source: Rosenthal N.E., Journal of the American Medical Association 1993, 270(22); pp.2717-2170

Treatment of Sleep Disorders 

Exposure to the sun has been shown to help people with sleep disorders.

Source: Boulos Z., S.S.Campbell, A.J.Lewy, M.Terman, D.J.Disk, C.I.Eastman, Journal of Biological Rythms 1995, 10(2): pp.167-176
Source: United States Congress, Office of Technology Assessment 1991; OTA-BA-463; pp.1-249

Reduced Symptoms of Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (P.M.S.)

Some women can suffer from P.M.S. just prior to their monthly period. The physical symptoms include abdominal bloating and cramping, breast tenderness, fluid retention, and headaches. It can also cause behavioral symptoms which include anxiety, crying spells, depression, fatigue, irritability, and appetite changes. Sun exposure has been shown to reduce P.M.S. in some women.

Source: Parry B.L., S.L.Berga, N.Mostofi, P.A.Sependa, D.F.Kripke, J.C.Gillian, American Journal of Psychiatry 1989 146(9); pp.1215-1217

Treatment of Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a common skin disease which causes bright red dry plaques of skin. It is usually chronic and difficult to treat. However, UV light (present in sunlight) can help reduce the appearance and discomfort of psoriasis.

Source: Gonzales E., J.A.Parish UV Phototherapy, Renigk, H.H. Jr., Malbach H.I. eds. 1991; pp.519-532)

Reduction in Some Cancers

People who live in areas of the world that get more sunlight have been shown to have a lower death rate from ovarian, breast and colon cancers. One researcher even suggested that recent increases in some cancers may be due, in part, to sunlight deprivation.

Source: E.M.John, G.G.Schwartz and D.M.Dreon Vitamin D and Breast Cancer Risk Northern California Cancer Center,‘Era of Hope’Conference, Oct.31-Nov.4, 1997
Source: Garland F.C., E. Gorham Biologic Effects of Light, 1993, E.G.Jung and M.F.Hollick eds. Walter de Gruyter, New York 1994, pp.509-516
Source: Garland F.C., Geographic variation in breast cancer mortality in the United States, Preventive Medicine, 1990; 19:614-622
Source: Garland F.C., Do sunlight and Vitamin D reduce the likelihood of colon cancer?, International Journal of Epidemiology, 1980; 9:277-231
Source: Garland F.C., Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and colon cancer: 8-year prospective study, Lancet, 1989; 2:1176-1178

Prevention of Skin Cancer 

People with outdoor occupations have been shown to have lower incidence of melanoma. It was also observed that melanoma seldom occurs on areas of the skin that get regular sun exposure. However, it is important to note that this is true only of moderate sun exposure in those who are able to develop a tan.

Source: D.Vagero et al. Melanoma and other tumours of the skin among office, other indoor and outdoor workers in Sweden Br. J. Cancer 1986, 53:507-512
Source: H.G. Ainsleigh Beneficial Effects of Sun Exposure on Cancer Mortality Preventive Medicine 1993, 22:132-140
Source: F.C.Garland, M.R.White, C.F.Garland, E.Shaw and E.D.Gorham Occupational Sunlight Exposure and Melanoma in the U.S. Navy Archives of Environmental Health, 1990, Vol.45, No.5, pp.261-267
Source: G.P.Studzinski and D.C.Moore Sunlight; Can It Prevent as well as Cause Cancer? Cancer Research 1995, 55:4014-4022

Treatment of Skin Cancer

Can you believe it? Some studies have shown that malignant melanoma is inhibited by vitamin D and sun exposure.

Source: Eisman et al. Suppression of in-vitro growth of human cancer solid tumours by 25-hydroxyvitamin D Cancer Research 1987, 47:21-25
Source: F.C.Garland, M.R.White, C.F.Garland, E.Shaw and E.D.Gorham Occupational Sunlight Exposure and Melanoma in the U.S. Navy Archives of Environmental Health, 1990, Vol.45, No.5, pp.261-267
Source: G.P.Studzinski and D.C.Moore Sunlight; Can It Prevent as well as Cause Cancer? Cancer Research 1995, 55:4014-4022

You might wonder why all this information isn’t more widely available. All we hear about are the dangers of skin cancer. The reality is that the sun has no lobby group. There is no profit from the sun and as such, no funds or groups to promote it. (There is one exception in the small indoor-tanning industry.)

Promoting the dangers of skin cancer is a very profitable strategy for the sun-block industry. It is estimated to be a five billion dollar industry. I’m not suggesting that there is a conspiracy to hide the truth. I’m only saying that one side of the debate has a huge financial advantage in promoting its message. In a society where money talks, this message has become the only one heard.

However, some evidence that the sun may not be as bad as suggested continues to show up. Not long ago, the British Medical Journal, a publication which is very well respected around the world, published an article which suggested that moderate exposure to the sun may be beneficial. A recent study by Dr. Micheal Holick from the Boston University School of Medicine concludes that the vitamin D generated by moderate sunshine exposure helps to ward off several debilitating and sometimes deadly diseases such as osteoporosis, hypertension, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, depression and colon, prostate and breast cancer.

Certainly, the sun can have negative effects. Anything can when abused. Excessive exposure and sunburn can cause health problems and great discomfort. It is also clear that skin cancer is on the rise. However, I think we have been guilty in the past of abusing the sun.

So is the sun bad or is it good? My answer is a definite “yes”.

More Information

”Pro” Sun

Latest Study

Naturism and the Sun

By itself, the removal of a skimpy bathing suit does little to increase our exposure to the sun. We define naturism as “away of life in harmony with nature, characterized by the practice of communal nudity, with the intention of encouraging respect for oneself, respect for others and for the environment.” That respect includes living with nature and not abusing it. The sun, like all parts of nature, should be respected. Our bodies were built to take what we need from nature. If we try to abuse nature and take too much, we get sick. If we live within nature, as we were intended, we thrive.