Researchers Link Sunlight Exposure to Lower Blood Pressure

tanning, sun, sunshine, sun tanning

University of Edinburgh researchers found that exposing skin to sunlight may help reduce blood pressure, cut the risk of heart attack and stroke, and maybe even extend someone's life. The study showed that when skin is exposed to sunlight, a compound is released in blood vessels that helps lower blood pressure. The researchers studied the blood pressure of 24 volunteers who sat underneath tanning lamps for two sessions of 20 minutes each. In one of the sessions, the volunteers were exposed to both UV rays and the heat from the lamps. In the other session, the UV rays were blocked so they were only exposed to the heat from the lamps. The volunteers who were exposed to UV rays experienced a significant drop in blood pressure.

The findings seem to suggest that sunlight exposure improves health overall because the benefits of reducing blood pressure outweigh the risk of developing skin cancer. Dr Richard Weller, Senior Lecturer in Dermatology at the University of Edinburgh, 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."

It must be noted that the study was conducted in the UK where heart disease and stroke linked to high blood pressure lead to an estimated 80 times more deaths than those from skin cancer. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK, according to the Cancer Research UK. Skin cancer doesn't even rank among the 20 most common types of cancer in the UK.

Skin cancer is much more prevalent in the U.S. In fact, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. More than 3.5 million skin cancers in more than two million people are diagnosed every year. There are more new cases of skin cancer every year than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime. The incidence of skin cancer has been increasing. Over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined. The treatment of non-melanoma skin cancers increased by almost 77 percent between 1992 and 2006.

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can be fatal, and it is the third most common form of skin cancer in the U.S. One person dies of melanoma every hour, and an estimated 76,690 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed in the US in 2013. An estimated 9,480 people will die of melanoma in 2013. Melanoma is the only one of the seven most common cancers in the U.S. whose incidence is increasing. Between 2000 and 2009, the incidence of melanoma increased 1.9 percent a year. Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults ages 25 to 29 years old, and the second most common form of cancer for young people ages 15 to 29 years old.

A person's risk for melanoma doubles if they have had more than five sunburns, which makes preventing sunburns important. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that people always use a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher when in the sun. In addition, the organization recommends that people avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.

Photo Credit: n kw

By Gina-Marie Cheeseman| May 22, 2013
Categories:  Care

About the Author

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer armed with a passion for healthy living and a degree in journalism. Hailing from the dry, sunny Central San Joaquin Valley, she hasn't let the heat fry her brain!

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