New research suggests that sun exposure can protect individuals from many chronic health conditions.
The research, conducted at Edinburgh University, UK, concluded that advice on healthy sun exposure should be reconsidered, warning that older individuals in particular need more sun.
The study established that sun exposure might lower blood pressure and cut risks for stroke and heart attack due to sun exposure lowering blood pressure by causing blood vessels to widen.
Results showed that sun exposure can also protect against conditions such as asthma, multiple sclerosis and symptoms of type 2 diabetes as well as elevate moods.
Sunlight may even help to keep the body slim and healthy by suppressing the development of obesity, the findings state.
Exposure to the sun is also believed to prompt the body to produce nitric oxide, which helps to protect the cardiovascular system, as well as the feel good chemical serotonin.
Other research from Cambridge University suggests that sunlight alters gene behaviour, showing the expression of 28% of the genetic make-up varies from season to season. Researchers reported activity of anti-inflammatory genes increase in summer, and sunlight may prompt the body to switch down inflammatory responses.
Despite the findings, the cancer council does not recommend hours sunbathing. Rather, a balance is required between excessive sun exposure, which increases the risk of skin cancer, and enough sun exposure to maintain adequate vitamin D levels and other health benefits.
Given that Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world- skin cancer accounts for over 80% of all new cases of cancer diagnosed in Australia each year- extreme caution must be taken.
In Australia, where the UV Index is 3 or above for much of the year, sun protective measures to reduce the incidence of skin cancer must continue to be a high public health priority. People should continue to protect themselves from excessive sun exposure.