Is getting a sun tan really good for you?

It was only twenty or so years ago that a deep, bronze tan was seen as a sign of good health and people would lay on beaches, for hours on end, in pursuit of the perfect tan. Then we learned more about the effects that sun can have on our skin and how it can cause skin cancer and premature ageing. On the other hand, we do need to have the sunlight in our bodies to generate vitamin D, so what is the truth about a sun tan? Is it really that bad for us, or could it do us some good?  Here are the facts about sun tans, the good and the bad, so that you can decide whether you think a little colour in the skin is good for you, or whether you should cover up all of the time?

1. Too much exposure to ultraviolet light can cause skin cancers

Many studies have proven the connection between exposure to ultraviolet light and the development of skin cancer. Whether it is through exposure to the sun, or from lying on a sunbed, excessive tanning does, definitely, increase your chances of developing skin cancer.

2. Too much sun does cause premature ageing and creates leathery looking skin

There is also no debate about the fact that exposure to ultraviolet light causes premature ageing of the skin. Over time, too much sunlight causes what is called photo ageing, which makes skin look leathery and creates wrinkles.

3. The sun is not the only way to get Vitamin D

It is true that exposure to sunlight does create Vitamin D in the body, but vitamin D can be obtained through food such as egg yolks, salmon, tuna, fish liver oils and fortified foods. Experts seem to disagree on this point, with some saying that having ten minutes a day of exposure to the sun is the healthiest way to obtain Vitamin D, while others disagree.

4. Sunlight prevents seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

The flip side of the argument that tanning can cause skin cancer and premature ageing is that the sun does provide us with many health benefits too, and one of those is that it prevents seasonal affective disorder, which is a form of depression that is brought on by a lack of exposure to sunlight.

5. Sunlight can reduce the risk of some cancers

Although overexposure to sunlight can cause skin cancer, the Vitamin D that sunlight creates in the body reduces the risk of some other types of cancer. In a study that was conducted by the US National Cancer Institute, researchers found that people who had frequent exposure to the sun were far less likely to die from colon cancer or breast cancer.

6. Sunlight makes you feel better

There is a very good reason why everyone is more cheerful and full of energy on a sunny day and that is because the sunlight increases the body’s production of the happy hormone, serotonin. Regular exposure to sunlight can even ward off moderate depression in a person.

7. Sunlight can prevent diabetes

It has also been discovered that Vitamin D can help prevent diabetes. A study conducted in Finland found that children who took a vitamin D supplement for a few years had an eighty percent reduction in their risk of developing Type 1 diabetes, when they got older and a lack of Vitamin D has also been linked to Type 2 diabetes.

8. Sunlight helps to prevent multiple sclerosis

The exact causes of multiple sclerosis are not known, but the disease of the central nervous system is far more prevalent in people who have had only limited exposure to sunlight. It is a fact that far fewer people develop MS in hot sunny countries, than in countries where the weather is colder and there is less sunlight.

9. Sunlight boosts the immune system

Exposure to sunlight has also been proven to increase the production of white blood cells in the body, which boosts your immune system and improves your ability to fight off infection and disease.

10. The answer is in moderation

Vitamin D deficiency and the development of diseases like SAD are on the increase in Western countries, because we do spend too much time avoiding the sun. Many of us work in in offices all day where we close all the windows and turn up the air-conditioning in the summer and, when we go on holiday, we stay out of the sun to avoid getting burned. The answer, then, would appear to be that a slight tan is indeed good for you, but lying in the sun until you turn lobster pink certainly is not!

Stay healthy!

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