Sun's blood pressure benefits 'may outdo cancer risks'

Sunbathers Edinburgh University researchers found skin exposed to UV rays released a compound that lowers blood pressure

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The health benefits of exposing skin to sunlight may far outweigh the risk of developing skin cancer, according to scientists.

Edinburgh University research suggests sunlight helps reduce blood pressure, cutting heart attack and stroke risks and even prolonging life.

UV rays were found to release a compound that lowers blood pressure.

Researchers said more studies would be carried out to determine if it is time to reconsider advice on skin exposure.

Heart disease and stroke linked to high blood pressure are estimated to lead to about 80 times more deaths than those from skin cancer in the UK.

Start Quote

Dietary vitamin D supplements alone will not be able to compensate for lack of sunlight”

End Quote Dr Richard Weller Edinburgh University

Production of the pressure-reducing compound, nitric oxide, is separate from the body's manufacture of vitamin D, which rises after exposure to sunshine.

Researchers said that until now vitamin D production had been considered the sole benefit of the sun to human health.

During the research, dermatologists studied the blood pressure of 24 volunteers under UV and heat lamps.

In one session, the volunteers were exposed to both UV rays and the heat of the lamps.

In the other, the UV rays were blocked so that only the heat affected the skin.

The results showed that blood pressure dropped significantly for an hour after exposure to UV rays, but not after the heat-only sessions.

Scientists said that this suggested it was the sun's UV rays that brought health benefits.

The volunteers' vitamin D levels remained unaffected in both sessions.

'Reconsider our advice'

Dr Richard Weller, a senior lecturer in dermatology at Edinburgh University, said: "We suspect that the benefits to heart health of sunlight will outweigh the risk of skin cancer.

"The work we have done provides a mechanism that might account for this, and also explains why dietary vitamin D supplements alone will not be able to compensate for lack of sunlight.

"We now plan to look at the relative risks of heart disease and skin cancer in people who have received different amounts of sun exposure.

"If this confirms that sunlight reduces the death rate from all causes, we will need to reconsider our advice on sun exposure."

The study will be presented on Friday in Edinburgh at the world's largest gathering of skin experts. The International Investigative Dermatology conference starts on Wednesday and runs until Saturday.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    @Curtains 2012.

    Thanks. Yes, believe it or not I am aware of the difference and their being no fusion reactors on earth although they remain an ongoing research & development objective. I was in fact making the light hearted comment about there being nuclear reactors in the sky and on earth. Moreover, I feel very comfortable with nuclear power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    As with everything else. Taken in moderation it is good for you. Taken in excess it is bad for you. This is why we get the food scares. It is because scientists usually take the worst case scenario and present it as the norm.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    I had a quad bypass 6 years ago and have had to have lots of pills to try and control my BP, but after spending the last 2 days in the garden with all exposed to the sun, my BP has come down to its lowest level for weeks.

    I keep an on-line diary of my BP so I will now be associating my BP with my sun exposure....

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    I live in a country where there is an abundance of sun and a total absence of Health and Safety paranoia. We may not always be safe, but we're a healthy lot!

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    @215 Radec
    1. The Moon isn't always out at night, sometimes it's out during the day.
    2. The Moon shines by reflecting the light of the Sun, and not a large amount of it at that. The benefits are negligible for this reason.

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    Whilst it is all very well for scientists to publish their findings, more care should be taken in any public recommendations. Too often additional studies conclude contravening data given different circumstances. As someone else said earlier, its all a question of moderation. And evolution. And nature. We cannot fight nature, and that is how we have evolved to adapt to our environment!

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    I too have a skin condition - eczema - on may face neck shoulders and in my hair - I wait every year for the sun to come so that a little everyday makes me look normal again. Just do it sensibly!

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    Re 132 - Yes moms do stay at home - good. From now on if they are married and never have a paid job paying NI- they will no longer be entitled to a portion of their deceased husbands pension - they do not need to live in America, Thailand or Pakistan - they could live in Basingstoke or Newcastle. Just as ESA and JSA is now time limited if you have 16K in the bank - time people started to wake up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    Witchcraft i say, witchcraft. Well we do live in the Goldilocks zone.
    BTW your epidermis is showing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    One of my closest friends died of melanoma which started on his leg. Sunlight is good but sun burn is a clear sign that your cells are being damaged and your DNA is being mutated!

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    if we get any prolonged sunshine in this country got out naked for 20 mins get the health benefits then for goodness sake cover up , the rest of us don't want to see it .

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    "The comment I made, hoping that all this talk of moderation would not go to the moderators heads, has been moderated"

    They are not noted for their sense of humour.

    Oh well, a few of us smirked at it while it was there!

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    For sure the sun is good for you in moderation.
    Just like everything.
    Vitamin D is necessary and the joy of a sunny day says it all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    The more research we get, the more we see that moderation is natural and healthy

    It has long been thought that the advantage of the Mediterranean diet might be due in part ot exposure to sun, not just nutrition, so I don’t really see this as a shock

    And anyone who has postural hypotension has known for years that sunbathing triggers it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    230.Fiscal prudence
    8 Minutes ago
    Perhaps we should stop calling our nearest star the Sun and describe it for what it is - a great big nuclear reactor up in the sky. May also help us to feel more comfortable with it's man made siblings on earth. Everyone in moderation and nothing is without risk.


    Where are the FUSION reactors on Earth? There are many of the FISSION type?

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    Peter_sym, before you criticize an article, you should read it. The point of it is that there is a newly discovered benefit to sunlight. This shifts the weight of risk in favor of more time in the sun relative to what experts used to tell us. Of course your right though, sunshine feels good, baking under lamps until your dehydrated and your electrolytes are waked doesn't. Might be a reason.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    Wow so much talk in the comments section about scientists changing their minds about what you should believe. Is it too much to think that biomechanics is quite complicated and something simple like sunlight can have many conflicting outcomes? Read the evidence from scientific studies and make up your own damn mind about whether the benefits or the risks tip the balance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    If sunlight was too harmful we'd never have evolved under its lovely rays. It is hot though - so remember not to touch it. DUH!

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    Why is a Scottish university advocating more sunlight exposure? Surely it's irrlevant up there...

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    233. martiniqueen
    Two of my children suffer from psoriasis - the eldest gets it on her face which, for a teenager, can be quite distressing"

    Back in the 1970's some doctors were prescribing trips to the Dead Sea to treat severe psoriasis by bathing in the mineral-rich waters which were very beneficial to psoriasis sufferers.


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