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Getting the picture right – new public health messages for UV radiation needed

Date

07 Jul 2021

Sections

Health & Consumers

Brussels, 06.07.2021 – More attention is needed that UV radiation, which is part of the natural sunlight and is also emitted by artificial tanning devices, has health benefits if used in moderation. On the other hand overexposure, such as getting a sunburn, could potentially also have detrimental effects such as the development of skin cancer. Therefore, it is very important that sunburn is avoided at all costs! Protective clothing, sunscreen and staying in the shadow are all measures that help protecting from the sun during a longer stay outside.

The list of the health benefits is long and therefore needs to be communicated properly in order to spread awareness. There is sound evidence that vitamin D, which is formed in the skin upon UV exposure, plays an essential role in human health, especially in bone health by preventing osteoporosis, in the prevention of a number of cancers such as prostate, pancreatic and breast cancer and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and diabetes. Depending on the latitude, the month of the year, the time and the skin type, among others, 10-15 minutes in the sun per day are enough to reach sufficient vitamin D levels. Additionally, exposure to sunlight has many other positive effects,

e.g. the production of beta- endorphin, which is responsible for an improved mood and well-being. Another main health benefit is the release of nitric oxide in the skin, causing dilation of blood vessels and thereby reducing blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases1.

What if there would exist a device that mimics sunlight? Wouldn’t it be foolish not to use it and waste all its potential benefits? Sunbeds, simply speaking, emit light that is very similar to that of the natural sun. And before critics start raising their eyebrows: the same applies for the sunbeds as for the sun: moderation is the key! People use sunbeds to get a tan or just enjoy the warmth that resembles lying in the sun and as a side effect, increase their vitamin D levels.

What about the connection of sunlight and the current COVID-19 pandemic? Newspapers were full with articles about the effects of vitamin D. The fact that there is indeed a correlation between sunlight and COVID-19 has been shown by a recently published study2 which found a lower COVID-19 mortality in countries that are closer to the equator. This adds to the sound evidence that sunlight through the vitamin D mechanism could play a crucial role in limiting the impact of the pandemic.

And what about the specific role of vitamin D? This essential micronutrient, which is actually a hormone, supports the immune system and has antiviral properties which help in the fight against the SARS-CoV-2. A recent study has found that sufficient vitamin D levels reduce the odds of developing an acute respiratory infection (and nothing else is COVID-19) significantly.3

The European Sunlight Association (ESA) is promoting safe, controlled and informed use of sunbeds in compliance with the EU legislation. To ensure consumer safety, ESA is working hand in hand with the EU and Member State national authorities towards the implementation and enforcement of mandatory standards across Europe.

 

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