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 423.

    Even if sun exposure does lead to a reduction in blood pressure, it still does not prove it reduces death from heart disease or stroke. For mild hypertension, even drugs are not that good (if any good) at reducing risk of dying or becoming ill. Sun worshippers will latch on to this and I'll keep on diagnosing their cancers - and treating their blood pressure!

  • 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 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 105.

    I had sunlight treatment back in the 60`s when I was about 7, it was prescribed from the doctor because I was how times have changed. Sunlight is the best medicine you could ask 4 We wasn't meant to live in the dark! Other hot countries seem to manage well exposed to sunlight...its the namby pamby western world that try to find excuses, when all they have to do is look to chemicals!

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    I have developed severe psoriasis in various parts of my body and especially the palms of my hands, which has increasingly worsened despite prescribed ointment. No amount of creams, ointment, gloves seems to make much difference except an hour or so in the sun which has a significant effect the next day. Sun is good for you as long as you don't let it burn you!


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