New evidence presented in the April-June issue of Dermato-Endocrinology1 confirms that exposure to the sun in appropriate and measured timeframes has a number of health benefits unrelated to vitamin D production, such as:
|Enhancing mood and energy through the release of endorphins||Protecting against and suppressing symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS)|
|Treating skin diseases, such as psoriasis, vitiligo, atopic dermatitis, and scleroderma. UV radiation also enhances skin barrier functions||Inducing nitric oxide (NO), which helps protect your skin against UV damage and offers cardiovascular protection, promotes wound healing through its antimicrobial effect, and has some anti-cancer activity|
|Melatonin regulation through the “third eye” of the pineal gland photoreceptors||Relieving fibromyalgia pain|
|Standard treatment for tuberculosis 100 years ago, long before the advent of antibiotics||Treating neonatal jaundice|
|Can be used to sterilize your armpits and eliminate the cause of most body odor||Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)|
|Synchronizing important biorhythms through sunlight entering your eye and striking your retina||Regulating body temperature|
|Protecting against melanoma and decreasing mortality from it||May be effective in treating T Cell lymphoma|
“Solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation has been used since ancient times to treat various diseases. This has a scientific background in the fact that a large number of molecules (chromophores) in different layers of the skin interacts with and absorbs UV.
…Phototherapy is a valuable option in the treatment of many psoriatic and nonpsoriatic conditions, including atopic dermatitis, sclerosing skin conditions such as morphea, scleroderma, vitiligo, and mycosis fungoides. Phototherapy is the treatment of certain skin disorders with UV radiation which can be produced by the sun, fluorescent lamps, short arc lamps with UV filters and lasers.
While the sun has gotten a bad rap, being portrayed as little more than a skin cancer-inducing object in the sky to be avoided at all cost, it’s important to consider that exposure to UVB light is actually protective against melanoma (the most lethal form of skin cancer). As documented in The Lancet:4
“Paradoxically, outdoor workers have a decreased risk of melanoma compared with indoor workers, suggesting that chronic sunlight exposure can have a protective effect.”
Another study in Medical Hypotheses5 suggested that indoor workers may have increased rates of melanoma because they’re exposed to sunlight through windows, and only UVA light, unlike UVB, can pass through window glass. (While UVB light gives you that tanned look and causes your skin to produce vitamin D, UVA rays are the ones associated with skin damage and skin cancer.) Since indoor workers, who get three to nine times less solar UV exposure than outdoor workers, are missing out on exposure to the beneficial UVB rays, they will have lower levels of vitamin D and therefore miss out on the “built-in” cancer protection offered by regular exposure to the sun, or a sun lamp.
The study even noted that indoor UV actually breaks down vitamin D3 formed after outdoor UVB exposure, which would therefore make vitamin D3 deficiency and melanoma risk even worse. A number of associations between regular sun exposure and decreased melanoma risk can be found in the medical literature. For example:
“Severe early childhood caries (S-ECC), also known as bottle rot, is a syndrome characterized by severe decay in the teeth of infants or toddlers. S-ECC is commonly caused by a bacterial infection with Streptococcus mutans. Its prevalence is epidemic; in the US, the rate is highest in minorities, at times infecting over 70 percent of minority children. The disease process begins with the transmission of the bacteria to the child, usually from the mother… Subsequent cavities and surgery is common.”
More than one study has investigated the potential link between vitamin D and cavities and found correlations between the two. Most recently, researchers at the University of Manitoba, Canada, found that children with S-ECC (severe early childhood caries) had significantly lower vitamin D levels than cavity-free children (20 ng/ml versus 25ng/ml) and were twice as likely to have levels below 30 ng/ml.16
“Studies in the 1920s and 1930s noted that vitamin D and ultraviolet-B (UVB) irradiance reduced caries formation, the proposed mechanism being improved calcium absorption and metabolism. This paper reviews the history of studies of dental caries with respect to vitamin D, geographical location and available solar UVB doses…
The mechanism whereby UVB reduces risk of dental caries is likely through production of vitamin D, followed by induction of cathelicidin and defensins, which have antimicrobial properties. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations at or above 30-40 ng/ml should significantly reduce the formation of dental caries. It is unfortunate that the UVB and vitamin D findings were not given more consideration in the 1950s as a way to reduce the risk of dental caries when water fluoridation was being proposed.”
One study7 showed that two out of five children admitted to the study center’s pediatric hospital ward were deficient in the vitamin (below 20 ng/ml), and had more severe illness on admission. Children admitted with life-threatening septic shock had a median vitamin D level of just 19.2 ng/ml. The authors concluded:
“We found a high rate of vitamin D deficiency in critically ill children. Given the roles of vitamin D in bone development and immunity, we recommend screening of those critically ill children with risk factors for vitamin D deficiency and implementation of effective repletion strategies.”
According to data analyzed by Oregon State University researchers university10, about 70 percent of Americans and up to one billion people worldwide have insufficient levels of vitamin D. Optimizing your vitamin D levels through appropriate sun exposure or use of a safe tanning bed may be one of the most important things you can do to improve and maintain your health.