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article imageSunbathers live longer, in surprise health find

By Tim Sandle     Jun 7, 2016 in Health
A new study claims to shown that people who regularly go out and soak up the rays live for longer than those who shy away from too much sunlight. This runs counter to other published studies.
The new research was conducted in Sweden and it looked at medical records pertaining to 30,000 women who lived in Sweden. The records of the women were studied over a 20-year period.
The results indicated that those who spent more time in the sun that n the average tended to live for longer and suffered fewer ill-health effects, based on rates of heart disease. In terms of what 'living for longer' means, this ranged from seven months to two years of life. With the lower risk of death from heart attacks and other aliment this was a notable correlation; however, it does not imply causation. It could be, for instance, that those who sunbathe might eat healthier diets. These other factors could not be captured within the study.
As to why increased exposure to ultraviolet light led to a higher live expectancy within the population group, this may relate to the bodies being triggered into producing more vitamin D.
While vitamin D helps with forming healthy bones; a deficiency of the vitamin has been associated with increased risk of type 1 diabetes, as well as muscle and bone pain, and some types of cancers.
However, there were some other findings that off-set the initial headline. Deaths as a result of cancer were more common among the women who sunbathed more often. Whether this was because the lived for longer and did not die from other causes is a matter of conjecture.
Although the research is interesting, it must be noted that it represents one published study as compared with other studies that do not show the same effect. Moreover, it is based on one particular country in one part of the world - Sweden - not known for its tropical climate. A further limitation is that the collected evidence related to women only.
According to Dr. Robert H. Shmerling of Harvard University, the study authors make a bold claim that "recommendations to limit sun exposure might actually do more harm than good; in fact, they suggest that avoiding the sun could have a negative health impact similar in magnitude to smoking."
Here, Dr. Shmerling proposes caution: "in my opinion, that kind of declaration is premature and overstates what we can conclude from this type of research."
The study is published in the International Journal of Medicine, and it is headed "Avoidance of sun exposure as a risk factor for major causes of death: a competing risk analysis of the Melanoma in Southern Sweden cohort."
More about sun and cancer, Sunbathing, Cancer, Skin
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