Perhaps it is time to reexamine burying oneself in SPF 50 sunscreen and hiding from the sun. It seems that the sun has other beneficial effects than just vitamin D and that a tan slowly acquired over time lacks the harmful effects of getting a sunburn.

https://www.outsideonline.com/2380751/sunscreen-sun-exposure-skin-cancer-science

 

Read the article for what it is worth. It is not a scientific article in a peer-reviewed journal. I eagerly await the results of Dr. Weller’s study to be published later in 2019.

It is one thing to say one should avoid a sunburn and tan slowly. Sunburn is a sign of damage. Avoiding damage is a good thing. And some people are so fair skinned as to need to exercise extra caution.  However…

We live in a world of extremists. Health has become a kind of cult and we are expected to worship the latest fad without question. Somehow a finding that serious sunburn in children can lead to an increased risk of a rare melanoma in adulthood turned into zero tolerance for any level of solar exposure. Findings related to other beneficial health effects of sunshine are swept aside. We can fight high blood pressure, vitamin D deficiency, autoimmune issues, and depression with pills – so keep your skin away from that sun.

Part of me suspects the huge tanning lotion and sunblock industry is behind it, supported by tunnel-visioned dermatologists.

There has been a long growing trend to steer people away from small risks by exagerating them and refusing to acknowledge competing benefits or allowing for moderation in behevior.  If the risk is .05, we’ll act like the risk is ten times greater just to make sure those ignorant people don’t decide to take the risk. And then we’ll pretend there is no upside, just to make sure. Zero tolerance for sun exposure (as opposed to moderation and caution) is one example.

Another is raising children in aseptic environments. Maybe your kid doesn’t get sick early on but as soon as they hit the petri dish that is school they will suffer from their underdeveloped immune system. They will also suffer worse from allergies and various autoimmune disorders.

Yet another is alcohol consumption. I once read a several page article in the LA Times about a researcher’s conclusions on alcohol and pregnancy. The blurb under the front page headline said: Researcher discovers relationship between one drink of alcohol per day and birth defects. Inside, the article was a collection of advice from people talking about fetal alcohol syndrome and heavy drinking mothers.

After wading thru what was a huge article for the LA Times, we finally got to the actual study. The researcher said she found a statistically insignificant relationship between one drink of alcohol per day and birth defects and that she wouldn’t even recommend complete abstention to her own pregnant daughter. Almost the entire article was a lie by various authorities who felt that it was better to falsely scare the shit out of a lot of people than to tell them the truth. Personal responsibility? HA! We’re smarter than you and would make the decision for you.

And we won’t mention that an occasional glass of wine or beer is good for you.

The author points out a similar issue with margarine. There is danger in consuming large amounts of butter. Instead of suggesting moderation, butter was condemned and margarine invented to replace it. Many fled the perceived risks of butter for the imagined safety of margarine. Now that same margarine is banned for its health risks.

Cancer Council Australia’s official position paper (endorsed by the Australasian College of Dermatologists) states, “Ultraviolet radiation from the sun has both beneficial and harmful effects on human health…. 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…. It should be noted that the benefits of sun exposure may extend beyond the production of vitamin D. Other possible beneficial effects of sun exposure… include reduction in blood pressure, suppression of autoimmune disease, and improvements in mood.”

 

Australia seems to have recovered from the craziness. I suspect the US won’t be so quick. We are much more Puritan in nature.