Our planet has existed for almost 4.6 billion years. Humans evolved alongside this bright star. In fact, the wonderful Sun is what enables and advances life on Earth. Dr. Robert Stern, chair of the Department of Dermatology at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center , calls “solar phobia” what some people so preoccupied with getting cancer manifest, causing them to stay inside or cover all of their skin. But sunbathing is anything but dangerous, on the contrary.

Do you know what is dangerous? Human ignorance about two key things:

  1. First, not understanding the effects of the sun on us as individuals. Without this information, we cannot know what level of exposure is safe or unsafe.
  2. Second, do not take preventive measures to counteract underexposure or overexposure. Underexposure or lack of sunlight is just as dangerous as overexposure.

Sunbathing is healthy, in moderation

How many times have we been told that something is good for us “in moderation”? Alcohol, dark chocolate, dairy products, sleep, exercise, all are better “in moderation.”

As long as there is a precise measure that defines the moderation of an activity (for example, one or two drinks, 7-9 hours), it can be excellent advice! We can then implement this advice to improve and maintain our health, or refrain from things that can be harmful. This same concept of moderation applies to the sun.

5 health benefits of sunbathing

Note: As with anything related to health, it is important to be aware of any existing medical conditions. If you’re not sure, talk to your doctor. The content of this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice.

1. The sun contains vitamin D

In some medical circles, vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” and exposure to the sun can help produce this crucial nutrient. Vitamin D is also available in certain foods and supplements.

Vitamin D serves many important functions within the body, including:

  • Maintain normal calcium and phosphate levels
  • Promote bone and cell growth
  • Promote calcium absorption
  • Reduce inflammation

2. Sunbathing lowers blood pressure

In a pioneering study by Dr. Richard Weller and his colleagues at the University of Edinburg , researchers found sunlight to be an important chemical for lowering blood pressure. Nitric oxide is released into blood vessels when sunlight hits the skin.

According to Dr. Weller, the benefits of sunbathing , including a longer and healthier life, “far outweigh the risk of skin cancer.”

3. Improves brain function

In a study by neuroscientists at the University of Cambridge , Dr. David Llewellyn and his colleagues measured the vitamin D levels of 1,700 adults 65 and older. After analyzing the results, the research team noted higher rates of cognitive deficiencies in people with low levels of vitamin D.

Additional studies claim that sunlight also accelerates the growth of brain cells within the hippocampus; the region of the brain responsible for forming, organizing, and storing memories.

4. Relieves mild depression

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, “is a type of depression related to the changes in the seasons: seasonal affective disorder begins and ends at approximately the same time each year.” SAD is informally known as the “sad winter” disorder.

Psychologists, psychiatrists, and other medical professionals have linked the low availability of sunlight during certain periods of the year (most notably, fall and winter) with the disorder.

Ever wonder why sunny days cheer you up while gray skies don’t? Because the brain produces more of the neurotransmitter serotonin (“the happy chemical”) on sunny days than on cloudy days.

5. Cures certain skin disorders

Skin cancer is perhaps the biggest blow to the great bright star. Melanoma skin cancer is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, (when) these cancerous tumors develop (and trigger) mutations that cause skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. If melanoma is recognized and treated early, it is almost always curable. ”

Let’s put what we just read in context. Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. If we pay attention and seek treatment, it is almost always curable.

Despite the frequently cited hyperbole about skin cancer, the sun helps heal skin disorders at a much greater rate than it causes them. Just a few of the conditions that the sun helps include acne, eczema, jaundice, and psoriasis.


According to the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are three key elements to skin protection: genetic and lifestyle traits, monthly exams, and UV blockage.

Genetic and lifestyle characteristics:

a) Do you spend a lot of time outdoors?
b) Does the sun burn you easily?
c) Do you have any of the following?

  • Large, numerous, or irregularly shaped moles
  • Blonde, red or light brown hair
  • Parts
  • Light skin (‘pale’)

If you meet any of the above criteria, check with your doctor about how much time you should spend in the sun.

Monthly exams:

  • Since skin cancers found early can be easily cured, it is essential that you examine your skin on a monthly basis.
  • The “most important sign,” according to OSHA, “is a spot on the skin that changes shape or color over a period of 1 month to 1 or 2 years.”

Skin cancers often appear in one of four ways:

  • Pale, waxy, shiny lumps
  • Red, scaly, and marked patches
  • Sores that don’t heal
  • Small, mole-like growths (melanoma)

UV block

  • Limit your exposure: UV rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Cover up: Wear tight clothing that blocks the light.
  • Use sunscreen: A sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 blocks 93 percent of ultraviolet rays. Make sure to follow the application instructions on the bottle.
  • Wear a hat: A wide-brimmed hat is ideal because it protects the neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose, and scalp.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses. He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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