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.

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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 397.

    Some of the ill informed comments on here begger belief. Skin cancer develops slowly over a number of years. I know someone who was a postman for 40 years, he used sun cream and covered up and still got skin cancer. Of course the sun is bad for you.
    All you people under 40 haven't lived long enough yet to realise that the sun can kill you regardless of the benefits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    So the 6,000ยบ ball of reacting hydrogen that sends out high intensity EM radiation across the spectrum can be dangerous, but the planet we have evolved on for billions of years is not damaging to us? Gee, who would have thought?

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.


    It is not just blood pressure that the sun helps, it is a fact that in countries like Australia and many others where exposure to the sun is simply part of life, conditions such as autism, are far more manageable......


    Have you looked at the levels of skin cancer in Australia?

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    389. DB Cooper

    You act sensibly. Duh. If you lack sunscreen or hats, avoid prolonged activity in the sun, especially when the sun has to cut through less atmosphere at noon.

    Or whine asarcastically about it. That works too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    Re 270 - Alway called my mother, mom, in fact it is widely used in the midlands along with the word mommy - its a regional difference - regions are areas of the country outside of London and the SE. Loads of mom's will be very upset soon as they loose the right to a widows pension in a couple of years and have no prospect of paying enough NI to qualify.

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    It is not just blood pressure that the sun helps, it is a fact that in countries like Australia and many others where exposure to the sun is simply part of life, conditions such as autism, are far more manageable, as the brain produces more of the neurotransmitters, that enable a person with ASD's a far better quality of life and there carers, instead of throwing meds at ASD sufferers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    Another statement from the University of the Blindingly Obvious.

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    2 sessions, 1 hour each, only 24 volunteers and these scientist say that exposing skin to a lot of sunlight (1 hour is long enough to get burned) lowers blood pressure and outweighs the risk of skin cancer. This so called study flies in the face of decades of tens of thousands of people developing skin cancer from overexposure-skin cancer is the most common cancer yet we are now encouraged to burn

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    So what am I supposed to do? I hope we have terrible weather this summer to take the choice out of my hands. Any sun and I will work myself up into a frenzy, googling all sorts of reports, studies and advice, the pros, the cons going round and round in my mind... I'll need to buy some hats and sun cream (of varying factors) online to save me going outside before I make my decision.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    If you think about it logically there aren't many songs that dis the sun, are there?

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    Of course the sun is good for us! We have evolved and lived in sunlight for about a million years. If we were meant to live in the dark, then we would be blind and use sound, smell, and touch to get around like bats. Our eyes would be worthless! I think Pammij makes a good point as well given that I clean up hazardous waste sites here in So. California.

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    "Linking a drop in blood pressure to the sun, after a couple of days in the garden, misses another possibility : being in the outdoors, handling plants and soil, is relaxing and rewarding".


    Except if you'd read the article you would have seen that this was done under lab conditions exposing one set of patients just to heat and one to heat and UV rays so no outdoors relaxing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    383. Nick Evetts

    If you're going to tell us that then surely you'd know that too much mutation and damage in a short period isn't a good thing! UV radiation will cause the same kind of damage as X-Rays and Gamma Rays, but to a lesser degree, they're all high energy photons afterall. Don't see people rushing for a bathe in some gamma rays!

    As said, too much of something is always bad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    Interesting article. But having developed Malignant Melanoma last year, I am lucky to be alive as it was noticed by an observant partner early on. The surgery and treatment were not pleasant and of course. It could come back. This is not "namby pamby western world" as some very foolish person wrote below, but the reality of not taking sufficient care in the sun. ENJOY THE SUN BUT TAKE CARE IN IT.

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    "your cells are being damaged and your DNA is being mutated!" Cells do that It's called Evolution!

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    Yes sunlight can be dangerous if you go out at the wrong time of the day. Check out this site which will tell you the time of day it is safe to go out in the sun, and get the benefits of vitamin D while the harmful rays are filtered due to the angles.
    To say otherwise is just more scare mongering which increases greatly the sunscreen sales.

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    As Granny always said, too much of anything is bad for you.
    However living in the North of Scotland the chances of too much sun are pretty much zilch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    Linking a drop in blood pressure to the sun, after a couple of days in the garden, misses another possibility : being in the outdoors, handling plants and soil, is relaxing and rewarding. The drop in blood pressure may have less to do with sun exposure than to relaxation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    Are these the same scientists who tell us in one breath that half of the kids today will live to 100, but in the next breath tell us that our unhealthy diet will make us the first generation who don't live to be the age of their parents?

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    Careful exposure to the sun, where a light tan is gradually built up over the spring/summer is no doubt good for most people but 'binge' tanning, when people go on holiday and spend too much time in the sun, frequently burning is very risky.When the sun is shining my mood lifts instantly and I feel more relaxed, I don't need an expert to tell me that!


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