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Avoiding the Sun

Does Avoiding Sun Increase Overall Risk of Death?

Sun exposure is definitively linked to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, women with active sunlight exposure habits experience a lower overall mortality rate than women who avoid sun exposure. Currently there is debate over avoiding the sun to prevent cancer versus getting exposure to sunlight to avoid Vitamin D deficiency. Two recent review studies on the impact of vitamin D produced conflicting results; one showed that that no firm conclusions could be drawn and the other demonstrated a population attributable risk of death in the same range as smoking, inactivity or obesity. On the other hand, studies regarding sun exposure and skin cancer show a more conclusive link.

The incidence of malignant melanoma (MM) in Sweden has doubled during the last 15 years, but the mortality rate has been constant since 1980s. A previous study of a cohort of women in Sweden, found that there was a small subgroup in which there was excess mortality amongst women who avoided sun exposure. The current study classified causes of death into three major categories, cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer, and death that is not attributable to cancer or CVD, and sought to determine how sun exposure is related to causes of death.

Using competing risk scenarios the authors found the avoidance of sun exposure was a risk factor for all-cause death at the magnitude as smoking. The authors concluded that a longer life expectancy among women with active sun exposure habits was related to a decrease in heart disease and noncancer/non–heart disease deaths, causing the relative contribution of death due to cancer to go up. In regards to the ongoing debate regarding the nonskeletal effects of sunshine/vitamin D, the authors state that UV exposure might have opposing effects on different health issues and thus it might not be beneficial to promote restricting sun exposure year-round, especially in a country like Sweden where the the maximum UV index is low.

Byline: Martha L. Sikes, MS, RPh, PA-C

Posted: April 25, 2016

Source: Wiley Online Library
Adapted from the original article.

[Image: Pixabay / Myriams-Fotos]

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