When I was 12 years old, I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. An outpatient surgical procedure saved my life. The dermatologist put the fear of the sun in us, and everyone in our family started wearing sunscreen all the time.
Rowan Jacobsen writes Is Sunscreen the New Margarine? for Outside Magazine about emerging research which seems to indicate that avoiding sun exposure increases your risk of death:
Some of the best came from Pelle Lindqvist, a senior research fellow in obstetrics and gynecology at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, home of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Lindqvist tracked the sunbathing habits of nearly 30,000 women in Sweden over 20 years. Originally, he was studying blood clots, which he found occurred less frequently in women who spent more time in the sun—and less frequently during the summer. Lindqvist looked at diabetes next. Sure enough, the sun worshippers had much lower rates. Melanoma? True, the sun worshippers had a higher incidence of it—but they were eight times less likely to die from it.
So Lindqvist decided to look at overall mortality rates, and the results were shocking. Over the 20 years of the study, sun avoiders were twice as likely to die as sun worshippers.
There are not many daily lifestyle choices that double your risk of dying. In a 2016 study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, Lindqvist’s team put it in perspective: “Avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor of a similar magnitude as smoking, in terms of life expectancy.”
Most dermatologists recommend their patients follow the American Academy of Dermatology’s zero-tolerance stance on sun exposure. Every one of my dermatologists has given me the same advice. I have also repeatedly tested as Vitamin D deficient.
I like the sun, and I like the way I feel when I’m outside. I’m going to use less sunscreen.