That’s right. In this study, the researchers found that women who didn’t smoke but also avoided sun exposure had the same life expectancy of women who smoked but also had the highest exposure to sun.
Lindqvist observes, “We found smokers in the highest sun exposure group were at similar risk as non-smokers avoiding sun exposure, indicating avoidance of sun exposure to be a risk factor of the same magnitude as smoking. Guidelines being too restrictive regarding sun exposure may do more harm than good for health.” Compared to the highest sun exposure group, life expectancy of sun avoiders was reduced by 0.6 to 2.1 years.
The study included analysis of 29,518 Swedish women who were followed for 20 years. Those who had active sun exposure habits had a decrease in heart disease and non-cancer/non-heart disease deaths, although there was a “relative contribution of death due to cancer increase.”
The positive effect of sun exposure found in the results of this study may be due to vitamin D, additional aspects of UV radiation or other means, although there is no conclusion.
Of course, when people are exposed to sunlight, their bodies produce vitamin D, which is known to have many health benefits. However, when sunlight touches our skin, nitric oxide is produced as well and is released into our blood vessels. And nitric oxide can help lower blood pressure naturally, so it may contribute to the benefits of sunbathing, too.
Another study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology points this out, and the researchers say that, overall, the effect of sun exposure could improve health and even prolong life because “the benefits of reducing blood pressure, cutting heart attacks and strokes far outweigh the risk of getting skin cancer.” They cite estimates that in northern Europe, for every death from skin cancer, approximately 60 to 100 people die of stroke or heart disease related to high blood pressure.
The bottom line is that prudent sun exposure has health benefits. So, you may want to consider getting out there and soaking up a little sunshine!