The benefits of sun exposure in reducing blood pressure may outweigh the risks of developing skin cancer, scientific research has found.
Nitric oxide, a pressure-reducing compound, is released in the blood by ultraviolet (UV) rays produced by the sun and artificial sun lamps, and can cut the risk of heart attacks and stroke, the new study claims. It was conducted by University of Edinburgh scientists who measured the blood pressure of 24 volunteers sitting beneath UV lamps for two 20-minute sessions. They now say guidelines on safe levels of exposure to the sun may need reconsidered.
In the first session the volunteers were exposed to the lamps' UV rays and heat, while in the second session the UV rays were blocked so that only the heat of the lamps affected the skin. Blood pressure dropped significantly for one hour following exposure to UV rays but no change was recorded after the heat-only sessions, the results show.
Vitamin D had been thought of as the only health benefit from UV rays but the scientists say their experiments show additional positive effects.