The University of Edinburgh researchers found that when our skin is exposed to the sun’s rays for just 20 minutes, it releases a compound in our blood vessels that helps lower blood pressure.
The team, led by senior lecturer Dr Richard Weller, monitored the blood pressure of 24 volunteers who sat under tanning lamps for two 20-minute sessions each. In the first session, the volunteers were exposed to both UV rays and heat, while for the second session they were exposed to heat alone.
The results showed that after the first session the blood pressure of volunteers dropped significantly, but not for the second, suggesting that UV radiation and not heat was the instigator.
But, the new research has also rung alarm bells for skin cancer specialists:
“The relevance of this study to Australians is a key question to consider,” said Terry Slevin, Chair of the Skin Cancer Committee at the Cancer Council Australia.
“Australia has the highest rates of melanoma and non-melanoma in the world so sensible sun protection, particularly in summer and year round for people in northern latitudes [in Australia] is important”
Professor Bruce from the Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney said:
“While the research is interesting, it is based on short term effects of sun exposure. Without a great deal more research there can be no certainty that there would be long term blood pressure reductions and health benefits as a result. “