Could Sunshine Help Prevent Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
In recent decades, our awareness of the potential damage UV rays can do has increased tremendously. The UV radiation is a known carcinogen, as the link between long-term sun exposure and increased skin cancer risk is irrefutable. Yet, the link isn’t as straightforward as we may think, as age and genetic factors are also suspected to play a role in skin cancer risks, in addition to sun exposure.
And, it turns that moderate sun exposure may even have some health benefits. For instance, it helps trigger the production of important hormones, may help reduce the risk of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and helps the body create vitamin D. Recent research has even shown that it could decrease the risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
The Sunshine & IBD Link
In a study conducted by The Australian National University, children who spent half an hour outside each day appeared to have a lower risk of IBD. More than 800,000 people have chronic disorders encompassed by IBD, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. The risk in children who were exposed to sunlight was almost 20% lower than in their peers.
While the half-hour window seems to hold the most promising results, even short periods of sun exposure were linked with a reduced risk of IBD. In fact, the study’s lead professor notes that every 10 minutes of sun exposure resulted in a 6% drop in the child’s risk for developing the condition. This has led the researchers to the conclusion that there is an association between lack of sun exposure and increased IBD risk.
Although experts have already determined that sunlight does play a role in immune system functionality in ways that could lower one’s risk for IBD, the precise mechanisms still have yet to be determined. IBD is becoming more common in children, so this eye-opening discovery could be a worthwhile preventive tactic to explore.
Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean children should forego sunscreen entirely, especially since there’s evidence to suggest that sun exposure during youth could contribute most to skin cancer. Thus, it’s still a good idea for people of all ages to stay protected with an SPF of 15 or higher when spending extended periods of time outdoors.