The idea of sunlight helping prevent skin cancer may sound like a paradox, but the key is exposure in moderation, immunology scientists at Stanford University found.
Sunlight causes vitamin D to synthesize in the body, yielding some protection from the risk of skin cancer. The production of vitamin D is spurred on as an immunity response from the body receiving ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from sunlight.
Increased vitamin D has other health benefits to the body, but excessive UVB rays can damage the skin and raises the risk of skin cancer.
Most people can get the daily amount of vitamin D recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture by spending a half-hour to an hour outdoors, health experts told the web site HealthDay.com.
Spending some time in the sun is good for you, concurs consumer health advocate Mike Adams, author of the e-book "The Healing Power of Sunlight and Vitamin D."
"The truth about sunlight is that sensible exposure actually prevents skin cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, depression and even osteoporosis," Adams said. "Sunlight is more powerful than any drug; it is safe, effective and available free of charge. If it could be patented, it would be hyped as the greatest medical breakthrough in history. It's that good."
The study, led by Stanford professor of pathology Eugene Butcher, correlates to another study by researchers at the University of New Mexico Cancer Research and Treatment Center from 2005 that suggested that people who get malignant melanoma but also have a high amount to daily sun exposure have a higher survival rate than people with less exposure.
Melanoma represents less than 5 percent of all skin cancers in the United States, but is responsible "for more than 75 percent of all skin cancer deaths," states the web site of the University of Maryland Medical Center.