Another in-depth article from writer Rowan Jacobsen — this one published by Reader’s Digest, America’s fourth largest-circulation magazine brand — questions the validity of advising sun avoidance and reiterates evidence showing that UV exposure is vital to overall health.
“There are not many daily lifestyle choices that double your risk of dying,” Jacobsen writes. “In a 2016 study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, Lindqvist’s team put it in perspective: ‘Avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor of a similar magnitude as smoking, in terms of life expectancy.'”
The well-rounded article addresses the topic from several angles, making a number of salient points:
- Health benefits related to higher vitamin D levels are consistently shown in research, but clinical trials involving supplementation often fail. This is likely because the benefits are actually from sun exposure, not vitamin D. “A rogue band of researchers argue that what made the people with high vitamin D levels so healthy was not the vitamin itself. That was just a marker. Their vitamin D levels were high because they were getting plenty of exposure to the thing that was really responsible for their good health — that big orange ball shining down from above,” Jacobsen writes.
- The risk of death from skin cancer pales in comparison to risk from conditions that sun exposure benefits. Non-melanoma skin cancers are rarely deadly, and, while increased sun exposure is correlated to risk of melanoma, those with more sun exposure are actually eight times less likely to die from it. “People don’t realize this because several different diseases are lumped together under the term skin cancer. The most common by far are basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas, which are almost never fatal,” Jacobsen writes. “When I diagnose a basal cell carcinoma in a patient, the first thing I say is congratulations, because you’re walking out of my office with a longer life expectancy than when you walked in,” the article quotes dermatologist and noted UV researcher Dr. Richard Weller saying.
- Sun being good for human health just makes sense. “It’s entirely intuitive,” Weller told Jacobsen. “Homo sapiens have been around for 200,000 years. Until the Industrial Revolution, we lived outside. How did we get through the Neolithic era without sunscreen? Actually, perfectly well. What’s counterintuitive is that dermatologists run around saying, ‘Don’t go outside; you might die.'”
- Advice for dark-skinned individuals exemplifies how absurd universal recommendations for sun avoidance and sunscreen usage are. African Americans need more sun to experience the benefits and are at extremely low risk for skin cancer, “And yet they and other people of color are getting a very different story, misled into believing in aggressive sun protection. On its website, the American Academy of Dermatology ‘recommends that everyone, regardless of skin tone, protect themselves from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.'” “The cosmetic industry is now trying to push sunscreen at dark-skinned people,” Weller says. “This is a marketing ploy.”
- While the U.S. lags behind, many experts and organizations worldwide have already modified their advise to reflect reality. Australia’s official advice is now, “Sun protection isn’t recommended unless you are outdoors for extended periods or near reflective surfaces, like snow. To support vitamin D production, spend some time outdoors in the middle of the day with some skin uncovered.” And, the British Association of Dermatologists says, “Enjoying the sun safely, while trying not to burn, can help to provide the benefits of vitamin D without unduly raising the risk of skin cancer.”
Click here to read the entire article.
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