Studies suggest health benefits of sunshine may outweigh risks of skin cancer

Mar/24/2015

A healthy amount of sunshineCan the secret to good heart health and a longer life be as simple as spending more time in the sun?

Recent studies suggest that the benefits of sunlight to heart health may outweigh the risk of skin cancer.

“I wouldn’t recommend sitting out in the sun all day, but adding a bit of sun exposure to our days can be beneficial in a number of ways,” said Jeffrey Sell, MD, chief of Cardiovascular Surgery at Sarasota Memorial.

“Of course, I recommend moderation and caution,” he added. “The threat of skin cancer is real when it comes to sun exposure, but with one in four Americans dying from heart disease every year, the benefits to our overall health shouldn’t be overlooked.”

Sunshine is the body’s most natural source of vitamin D – nicknamed the “sunshine vitamin” because of the many benefits associated with healthy bones, heart and muscle function. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked with other serious conditions including diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis and depression.

The latest studies making news have found that when sunlight hits the skin, a compound is released in blood vessels that causes blood pressure to drop, and lower blood pressure may reduce risks for heart attacks and strokes. Researchers exposed the skin of 24 study participants to a dose of UVA light equivalent to spending 30 minutes in natural sunlight. They found that just 20 minutes of exposure to natural sunlight could dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure.

“As blood pressure drops, so does the risk of heart attack and stroke,” Dr. Sell said. 

Since heart disease and stroke kill many more people than skin cancer, some experts say the overall benefits from sunlight outweigh the risks for skin cancer.

To learn more about how sunshine can benefit your heart, click here to watch our HealthWise video. Also, don't forget to check out the ongoing HealthWise video series on our YouTube education channel.

About Sarasota Memorial Health Care System: Sarasota Memorial Health Care System is a regional referral center offering Southwest Florida’s greatest breadth and depth of inpatient, outpatient and extended care services, with more than 800 physicians, 4,000 employees and 800,000 patient visits a year. Sarasota Memorial’s 819-bed acute care hospital has been recognized repeatedly as one of the nation’s best, with superior patient outcomes and a complete continuum of outpatient services– from urgent care centers and physician groups, to laboratory and imaging centers, home health, rehabilitation and long-term care.

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