Since it was discovered that UV radiation was the main environmental cause of skin cancer, primary prevention programs have been started. These programs advise to avoid exposure to sunlight. However, the question arises whether sun-shunning behaviour might have an effect on general health. During the last decades new favourable associations between sunlight and disease have been discovered. There is growing observational and experimental evidence that regular exposure to sunlight contributes to the prevention of colon-, breast-, prostate cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple sclerosis, hypertension and diabetes. Initially, these beneficial effects were ascribed to vitamin D. Recently it became evident that immunomodulation, the formation of nitric oxide, melatonin, serotonin, and the effect of (sun)light on circadian clocks, are involved as well. In Europe (above 50 degrees north latitude), the risk of skin cancer (particularly melanoma) is mainly caused by an intermittent pattern of exposure, while regular exposure confers a relatively low risk. The available data on the negative and positive effects of sun exposure are discussed. Considering these data we hypothesize that regular sun exposure benefits health.
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