The “deadly” habit that could add years to your life

Sunlight is the source of all life on Earth. In fact, a huge, new study shows women who spend the most time in the sun live longer than women who avoid it. In fact, even sun-lovers who partake in one supposedly “deadly” habit live longer than shade-lovers in this impressive study.

This massive 20-year study came out of Karolinska University Hospital and Lund University in Sweden. In it, researchers analyzed data from 29,518 Swedish women. They looked at the differences in causes of death among women with different levels of lifelong sun exposure. Overall, they found some striking results…

First, women who spent the greatest amount of time in the sun lived 0.6 to 2.1 years longer than women who habitually avoided the sun. Plus, the women who got the most sun had less heart disease (the most common cause of death) and lower overall death rates than those who avoided the sun.

The data also challenged some of the pseudo-scientific, politically correct assumptions about smoking…

Getting more sun just as important as avoiding heavy smoking

Amazingly, women who did not smoke and avoided the sun — two classic pillars for “cancer prevention” — had no better life expectancy than smokers who got a lot of sun. This finding indicates that hiding from the sun is as big of a risk factor for disease and death as avoiding cigarette smoking is a benefit.

And since women who got a lot of sun had lower rates of heart disease, it indicates that spending time in the sun can overcome any negative effects of smoking on heart disease as well.

There are many biologically plausible reasons for the association between sun exposure and a longer lifespan.

First, sun exposure activates the skin’s production of vitamin D. And as you know, this critical nutrient helps ward against depression, dementia, Type II diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic and neurological conditions. Vitamin D also lowers the risk of cancers, including skin cancer.

Of course, some experts attribute up to 90 percent of non-melanoma skin “cancer” to UV radiation from sun exposure. But these types of growths don’t invade, don’t metastasize, and don’t cause death. Many experts have finally begun to argue we shouldn’t even call these non-melanoma skin growths “cancer” at all.

Interestingly, some dermatologists still swear sun exposure increases the risk of developing malignant melanoma. And they attribute 86 percent of malignant melanoma to UV radiation exposure from the sun.

But that data is questionable. Especially since current scientific studies simply don’t bear out that myth.

In fact, as I reported last year, men and women with malignant melanoma, the one truly deadly form of skin cancer, who also had low vitamin D levels had thicker tumors, a key measure of its aggressiveness.

In another recent study, men and women with more skin moles (called nevus or nevi) caused by sun exposure, didn’t have a greater melanoma risk.

The one time when sun over-exposure is dangerous

However, studies DO show over-exposure to the sun and sunburns during late adolescence and young adulthood — but not during mature adulthood — increase a person’s risk for developing melanoma later in life. Fortunately, the FDA acted sensibly to restrict use of tanning beds during this vulnerable period of early life.

According to Pelle Lindqvist, lead author of the new Swedish study, “guidelines being too restrictive regarding sun exposure may do more harm than good for health.”

Of course, they want to learn more about the benefits of sun exposure in Sweden. For long periods of the year, the sun in Sweden is too low in the sky to activate vitamin D production in the skin. Perhaps to fill this void, many Swedish travel annually to beaches on the Mediterranean Sea to get sun exposure.

In the U.S., we have just entered that time of year when the sun is high enough in the sky everywhere in the country to activate vitamin D in your skin. The sun is the source of life and longevity, and more data show it. So make sure to spend 10 to 15 minutes outside in the sun without sunscreen every day from now until October.


  1. “Avoidance of sun exposure as a risk factor for major causes of death: a competing risk analysis if melanoma,” Journal of Internal Medicine ( 2016