A little sunshine won’t just brighten up your day – it could also help you live longer.
Research shows that even with the increased risk of skin cancer, those who lap up the sun are less likely to die young than those who prefer to stay in the shade.
In fact, women who soak up the rays are twice as likely to still be alive 20 years later as those who actively avoid them.
Swedish scientists concluded that staying out of the sun “may do more harm than good” – and could pose as much a health risk as smoking. However campaigners warn that sun-worshippers must not use the findings as an excuse to avoid protecting their skin.
Researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm examined data from almost 30 000 women whose health was tracked for two decades.
The women were asked if they smoked and about their attitude to the sun – including whether they actively sunbathed or booked sunshine breaks abroad.
The results showed that those who sought out the rays were less likely to die of heart disease and other illnesses, apart from cancer.
But the researchers said it is precisely this lower chance of sickness that allows the women to live long enough to develop skin cancer.
Another calculation suggested that staying out of the sun raises the odds of early death as much as smoking.
Writing in the Journal of Internal Medicine, the Swedes said they can’t be sure how sunlight is benefiting health. However, one possibility is that it lowers blood pressure.
Another popular theory is that by raising levels of vitamin D, the rays help protect against a host of conditions such as diabetes and brittle bones. It could also stop stress taking a toll by boosting levels of feel-good endorphins in the body.
The results come just weeks after guidance from drugs rationing body NICE warned that there is no such thing as a healthy tan. NICE urged Britons to slap on up to eight teaspoons of suncream during the summer or when visiting hot climates.
Cancer Research UK added that evidence showing sunbathing raises the risk of cancer is greater than that suggesting it wards off heart disease.
Sarah Williams, from the charity, said: “The only clear health benefit to spending time in the sun is producing vitamin D – there isn’t good evidence that it reduces the risk of heart disease. [But] the evidence is clear that the rays can increase the risk of skin cancer.”
Research from experts at Edinburgh University has previously suggested that sunshine lowers blood pressure, cutting the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Source – iol