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Review

Cancer Research Frontiers. 2016 May; 2(2): 156-183. doi: 10.17980/2016.156

Sunlight: For Better or For Worse? A Review of Positive and Negative Effects of Sun Exposure
 

Han van der Rhee1, Esther de Vries2, Claudia Coomans3, Piet van de Velde4, Jan Willem Coebergh5

1Department of Dermatology, Hagaziekenhuis, P.O. Box 40551, Leyweg 275, 2504 Den  Haag, Zuid-Holland, the Netherlands
2Department of Public Health, Erasmus University Medical Center, P.O. Box 2040 3000 CA Rotterdam, the Netherlands
3Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Laboratory for Neurophysiology, Leiden University Medical Center, P.O. Box 9600, 2300 RC Leiden, The Netherlands
4Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University, Postbus 9514, 2300 RA Leiden, the Netherlands
5Department of Public health, Erasmus University Medical Center, P.O. Box 2040 3000 CA Rotterdam, the Netherlands

 

*Corresponding author: Han van der Rhee. Voorstraat 56, 2201 HX Noordwijk, The Netherlands

Phone: 0031713617424; Email: hvdrhee@casema.nl

Citation: Han van der Rhee, et al. Sunlight: For Better or For Worse? A Review of Positive and Negative Effects of Sun Exposure. Cancer Research Frontiers. 2016 May; 2(2): 156-183. doi: 10.17980/2016.156

Copyright: @ 2016 Han van der Rhee, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Competing Interests: The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Received Nov 26, 2015; Revised Feb 3, 2016; Accepted Feb 13, 2016. Published Apr 22, 2016

 

Abstract

During the last decades new, mainly favorable, associations between sunlight and disease have been discovered, initially ascribed to vitamin D. There is, however, accumulating evidence that the formation of nitric oxide, melatonin, serotonin, endorphin, photodegradation of folic acid, immunomodulation, photoadaptation, and the effect of (sun)light on circadian clocks, are involved as well.  After a systematic search in the literature, a summary is given of (recent) research on the health effects of sun exposure and the possibly involved mechanisms.

In the last 200 years our exposure to sunlight has changed radically: from a more continuous to an intermittent exposure. Our exposure to light during the day and to artificial light in the evening and at night has changed as well. The present ‘epidemic’ of skin cancer is mainly caused by the increase of intermittent sun exposure, coinciding with decrease of chronic exposure. Effects of chronic and occupational exposure appear to be latitude-dependent: risk of skin cancer decreases with increasing latitude. In North-western Europe chronic exposure yields a relatively low risk of melanoma and (to a lesser degree) of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. There is epidemiological and experimental evidence that chronic exposure to sunlight could contribute to the prevention of colorectal-, breast-, prostate cancer, non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, multiple sclerosis, and metabolic syndrome. The possible consequences of these findings for public health messages on sun exposure are discussed. It is concluded that both too much and too little sunlight may be harmful to our health.

Keywords: skin cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, metabolic syndrome, multiple sclerosis, sunlight, vitamin D, circadian clocks, nitric oxide

 

 

 

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