Sunbathing hazards vs. vitamin D benefits

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: May 29th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

To sunbathe or not to sunbathe? A recent review of the scientific literature suggests that’s a no-brainer. The correct answer, most definitely, is NOT to sunbathe.

Recent published reports have linked vitamin D deficiency to an increased incidence of certain diseases, and implicate inadequate sun exposure as the cause. But the latest study emphasizes that exposing yourself to harmful doses of ultraviolet radiation is not the best way to maintain an adequate supply of vitamin D. Not only that, sunbathing’s downright unsafe.

Researchers now are advising the public to turn to vitamin D-fortified foods and nutritional supplements instead of unprotected sun exposure or ultraviolet light tanning beds.

There’s no questioning the benefits of vitamin D. People with abnormally low levels of the hormone increase their risk for several cancer types, including breast, prostate, lung, colon, ovarian and pancreatic. Vitamin D helps regulate calcium levels and is important for strong bones and liver health.

However, in their recent report in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, researchers claim that any person or group that advocates intentional sun exposure as the preferred means of producing vitamin D is doing a tremendous disservice to the public.

Ultraviolet radiation not only produces wrinkles and unsightly skin damage, it also causes more than a million skin cancers each year in the U-S.

The researchers hope their detailed review puts to rest what they believe are erroneous claims that sunlight is somehow good medicine.

Whose bright idea was that, anyhow?