Skin cancer patients may benefit from sun exposure

CONFUSION over the safety of sunshine was heightened yesterday by a study suggesting it can prevent deaths from skin cancer.

Scientists found that, as well as increasing the chances of getting skin cancer, exposure to the sun was associated with improved survival for those who had the disease.

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One explanation could be that vitamin D produced in the skin by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays helped the body combat cancer, the scientists said. Another might be that having a tan offers protection, since the dark skin pigment melanin absorbs harmful UV rays.

A team from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, investigated more than 500 patients who had been diagnosed with the disease in the late 1980s. Three measures of sun exposure - sunburn, high intermittent sun exposure and solar elastosis, an indicator of skin damage - were all associated with a reduced risk of death from melanoma, they wrote in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

About 100,000 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year in the United Kingdom.