Why avoiding sunshine could kill you.
Researchers followed 30,000 women for 20 years and found that those who avoided the sunshine were twice as likely to die.
Women who never sunbathe during the summer are twice as likely to die than those who sunbathe everyday, a major study has shown.
Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden claim guidelines which advise people to stay out of the sun unless wearing sunscreen may be harming the population, particularly in countries like Britain.
Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight is often cited as a cause of skin melanoma. The NHS currently recommends avoiding overexposure to the sun to prevent all types of skin cancer.
But the new research, which followed nearly 30,000 women over 20 years, suggests that women who stay out of the sun are at increased risk of skin melanomas and are twice as likely to die from any cause, including cancer.
“The results of this study clearly showed that mortality was about double in women who avoided sun exposure compared to the highest exposure group,” said lead author Dr Pelle Lindqvist.
“Sun exposure advice which is very restrictive in countries with low solar intensity might in fact be harmful for women’s health.
“The mortality rate was increased two-fold among avoiders of sun exposure as compared to those with the highest sun exposure habits.”
It is thought that a lack of vitamin D may to be blame. Vitamin D is created in the body through exposure to sunshine and a deficiency is known to increase the risk of diabetes, tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis and rickets.
Cases of rickets have risen fourfold in the last 15 years as sunscreen has increased in popularity.
Previous studies have shown that vitamin D can increase survival rates for women with breast cancer while deficiencies can signal prostate cancer in men. Low levels of vitamin D have also been linked to more aggressive forms of skin cancer.
Prof Dorothy Bennett, Professor of Cell Biology at St. George’s, University of London, said: “The findings support the consensus that the ideal amount of sun exposure for Northern Europeans is ‘a little’, rather than zero.
“As the authors comment, our bodies need sunlight to make essential vitamin D, which can help us resist some cancer types. Those who normally avoid the sun and/or cover most of their skin are advised to take vitamin D supplements.”
The study looked at 29,518 Swedish women who were recruited from 1990 to 1992 and asked to monitor their sunbathing and tanning salon habits.
After 20 years there had been 2,545, deaths and researchers were surprised to find that women who never sunbathed during the summer months were twice as likely to have died from any cause.