Dr Richard Weller's Work featured in new best selling book on Amazon!
 
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Linda Geddes, is an award winning journalist, her top selling non fiction book is a must read… Richard’s research findings are featured in Chapter 5.

About the book

Since the dawn of time, humans have worshipped the sun. And with good reason.

Our biology is set up to work in partnership with the sun. From our sleep cycles to our immune systems and our mental health, access to sunlight is crucial for living a happy and fulfilling life. New research suggests that our sun exposure over a lifetime - even before we were born - may shape our risk of developing a range of different illnesses, from depression to diabetes.

Bursting with cutting-edge science and eye-opening advice, Chasing the Sun explores the extraordinary significance of sunlight. - from ancient solstice celebrations to modern sleep labs, and from the unexpected health benefits of sun exposure to what the Amish know about sleep that the rest of us don't.

As more of us move into light-polluted cities, spending our days in dim offices and our evenings watching brightly lit screens, we are in danger of losing something vital: our connection to the star that gave us life. It's a loss that could have far-reaching consequences that we're only just beginning to grasp.

Available to buy on Amazon

Reviews: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42603316-chasing-the-sun

 
Mark Hosker
The health benefits of sunlight are only now being fully understood…
 

Extracts taken from full article by Jane Feinmann, inews.co.uk

In 2010, Dr Richard Weller, a dermatologist at the University of Edinburgh, discovered a previously unknown biological pathway by which nitric oxide is stockpiled in our skin and activated by sunlight. Since then, he has shown that exposing volunteers to the equivalent of 30 minutes of summer sunshine without sunscreen both raises nitric oxide levels and significantly reduces blood pressure. Weller’s largest study, reported at the British Association of Dermatologists’ annual meeting in Edinburgh in July 2018, involved tracking the blood pressure of 340,000 people in 2,000 spots around the US for three years, adjusting for variables such as age and skin type. The results have proved conclusively, he claims, that the people in sunnier climates have lower blood pressure than northern neighbours because of higher levels of nitric oxide levels. Separate studies also show that mobilising nitric oxide through sunlight appears to protect against obesity and metabolic disease.

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“As a dermatologist,” Weller admits, “I am in the difficult position of trying to balance the undoubted skin cancer-protecting effects of sunscreen against this growing body of evidence showing that exposure to the sun has cardiovascular benefits,” he says. Yet purely as a numbers game, he says there are reasons to go easy on the sunscreen. “Skin cancer kills surprisingly few people compared with heart disease. For every person who dies of skin cancer, more than 100 die from cardiovascular diseases,” he points out. People don’t realise this because several different diseases are lumped together under the term skin cancer. Less well known is the fact that the most common, basal-cell carcinomas, accounting for three in four of the 100,000 cases every year, can be excised relatively simply and are almost never fatal. “People who get basal-cell carcinomas are actually likely to have longer life expectancy because this type of skin cancer is strongly linked to sun exposure and tend to occur in healthy types who are outside getting plenty of sunshine and exercise,” says Weller.

A team, led by Professor Pelle Lindqvist, a senior research fellow in obstetrics and gynaecology, at at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, showed conclusively that a whole range of health problems are more common in women who avoid the sun – and are also more common in winter. Indeed, when the team checked mortality rate over the 20-year period, they found that sun avoiders were twice as likely to die as sun worshippers, largely due to a greater risk of death from cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes. “There are not many daily lifestyle choices that double your risk of dying,” points out Lindqvist. “We found avoidance of sun exposure a risk factor of the same magnitude as smoking in terms of life expectancy,”

Extracts from… Jane Feinmann, inews.co.uk

Read the full article here

 
Mark Hosker
Dr Richard Weller featured in THE NEW SCIENTIST MAGAZINE
 
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Too much sunscreen? Why avoiding the sun could damage your health

By Linda Geddes, New Scientist Magazine

For years we have been told to slather up or seek shade to avoid skin cancer. But now it is becoming clear that shunning the sun comes with its own health perils… full article available on the New Scientist website

SLIP! Slop! Slap! As public-health campaigns go, Cancer Council Australia’s dancing seagull telling people to slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat must rank among the stickiest in history. Launched in 1981, it prompted many a devoted sun worshipper to reconsider whether a “healthy tan” was virtuous, or a herald of premature skin ageing and cancer.

It seems to have been effective: after increasing in the general population for decades, rates of the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma, are now falling among Australians under the age of 40. “These are people who will have been exposed to the [Slip, Slop, Slap] message for pretty much their whole lives,” says Heather Walker of Cancer Council Australia.

But has this come at a cost? In Australia and worldwide, the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency is increasing – and sunscreen has taken much of the blame. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with weaker bones and teeth, infections, cardiovascular disease and autoimmune and inflammatory diseases including multiple sclerosis. And although vitamin D supplements have been touted as a solution, so far they don’t seem to have the effect that was expected. Now evidence is accumulating that sun exposure has benefits beyond vitamin D.

All of this has prompted some to label sunscreen “the new margarine” – a reference to health advice in the 1980s and 90s to switch from butter to hydrogenated vegetable oil to protect heart health, only to discover that the trans-fats found in many margarines were potentially full article available on the New Scientist website

 
Mark Hosker
Have We Been Thinking About Sunscreen All Wrong?
 

By: Michael Ciaramella, STAB Magazine read the article here


New studies show that sun protection and avoidance may be killing us in the long run. If you live anywhere near the equator, chances are you wear sunscreen every time you surf.

There are two primary reasons for this:

1. Sunscreen protects against short-term burns and

2. It also protects against long-term health issues, especially melanoma, a lethal form of skin cancer most often caused by sun exposure.

It’s been instilled in us since we were kids to always apply and re-apply sunscreen whenever we’re out in the sun. That UV rays are extremely harmful and, if left un-blocked, they can lead to serious issues or death.

I am not here to refute any of those points. Sunburn is bad for humans and sun-related skin cancer, specifically melanoma, can be lethal.

But comparatively to other sun-related diseases, or should I say recently-discovered sun-related diseases, melanoma is not actually all that likely to kill people, while the lack of sun exposure might just be.


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Stay away, UVA!

A recent article in Outside highlighted this point by breaking down recent studies on Vitamin D. We recommend that anyone interested in the sun/skin debate reads the article in its entirety (here), but if you prefer the sparknotes surfer-dude addition, please continue here.

First, let’s talk about one of the biggest indicators of health in humans:

Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids that forms when our skin is exposed to sun. It is vital to human health, as, “People with low levels of vitamin D in their blood have significantly higher rates of virtually every disease and disorder you can think of: cancer, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, heart attack, stroke, depression, cognitive impairment, autoimmune conditions, and more.”

That’s from Outside, who quoted a litany scientific studies in their piece.

Vitamin D production was never an issue for early humans, who spent the majority of their lives outside – hunting, foraging, or working off the land – and often wore very little clothing. But nowadays most humans spend their days inside, working office or factory jobs and not getting anywhere near the amount of sun as our forebears. Those of us who do spend time in the sun usually wear sunscreen, as is doctor-recommended.

But sunscreen not only protects us from burns and cancers – it also blocks our ability to produce Vitamin D.


According to the American Academy of Dermatology, this is okay.

“You need to protect your skin from the sun every day, even when it’s cloudy,” says the AAD website.

Better to protect ourselves with hats, coverups, and sunscreen, they say, and compensate with vitamin D pills. 

George has it sorted.

“Yet vitamin D supplementation has failed spectacularly in clinical trials,” says Outside. “Five years ago, researchers were already warning that it showed zero benefit, and the evidence has only grown stronger. In November, one of the largest and most rigorous trials of the vitamin ever conducted—in which 25,871 participants received high doses for five years—found no impact on cancer, heart disease, or stroke.”

But how would you go about comparing the importance of Vitamin D in human health to the malignance of melanoma?

Let’s jump to Richard Weller, a Scottish dermatologist who recently made a discovery about Vitamin D.

“Weller’s doubts began around 2010, when he was researching nitric oxide, a molecule produced in the body that dilates blood vessels and lowers blood pressure,” states Outside. “ He discovered a previously unknown biological pathway by which the skin uses sunlight to make nitric oxide.

t was already well established that rates of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and overall mortality all rise the farther you get from the sunny equator, and they all rise in the darker months. Weller put two and two together and had what he calls his ‘eureka moment’: Could exposing skin to sunlight lower blood pressure?

Sure enough, when he exposed volunteers to the equivalent of 30 minutes of summer sunlight without sunscreen, their nitric oxide levels went up and their blood pressure went down. Because of its connection to heart disease and strokes, blood pressure is the leading cause of premature death and disease in the world, and the reduction was of a magnitude large enough to prevent millions of deaths on a global level.”

That’s a little vague, so let’s crunch the numbers between heart disease and melanoma.

Every year, the amount of Americans that die from melanoma is roughly 3 in 100,000 – a number that's already low but could be theoretically lowered if Yanks spent less time exposed to sun.

At the same time, more than 300 of 100,000 Americans die from cardiovascular disease, which according to Weller’s study, could be significantly decreased if people spent more time in the sun.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that 30% of Americans spent more time in the sun. In theory, assuming these numbers work on a linear scale, this would decrease the number of cardiovascular deaths by a rate of 100 per 100,000 and increase melanoma deaths by just 1 per 100,000.

WSL commentator Strider Wasilewski was so pasty that he created his own sunscreen company – Shade.

But theory doesn’t mean much when it comes to human lives, so let’s look at the country of Australia, which lives beneath a giant hole in the ozone layer, for comparison.

Australians die from melanoma at a rate nearly 3x that of Americans, which sounds drastic but is actually just 8 per 100,000.

Meanwhile Australia’s cardiovascular-related death rate is only 173 per 100,000, which is right around half of the American equivalent.

Overall, significantly less Australians are dying from the combination of melanoma and cardiovascular-related diseases than are Americans, which could be in part due to their increased sun exposure (among other factors).

If the data is indeed indicative of this, people should be worrying more about heart disease than they do melanoma, which means spending more time exposed to the sun rather than covering up with hats, shirts, and sunscreen.

But not all experts agree.

“‘I don’t argue with their data,” David Fisher, chair of the dermatology department at Massachusetts General Hospital, told Outside. ‘But I do disagree with the implications.’ The risks of skin cancer, he believes, far outweigh the benefits of sun exposure. ‘Somebody might take these conclusions to mean that the skin-cancer risk is worth it to lower all-cause mortality or to get a benefit in blood pressure,’ he says. ‘I strongly disagree with that.’ It is not worth it, he says, unless all other options for lowering blood pressure are exhausted.”

Julian Wilson follows the doctors' orders with his Sunbum blend.

Meanwhile, Weller isn’t the only scientist who has come to sun-positive conclusions.

“Pelle Lindqvist, a senior research fellow in obstetrics and gynecology at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, tracked the sunbathing habits of nearly 30,000 women in Sweden over 20 years,” says Outside. “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.”

Outside posited that with all things considered, the avoidance of sun exposure has a risk factor on par with smoking, in terms of life expectancy.

So how does this make any sense? As long as I can remember, doctors have been telling me to cover up and protect myself from the fiery ball of death. Now we’re being told that sun exposure actually does more good than harm?

“It’s completely intuitive,” says Weller. “Homo sapiens have been around for 200,000 years. Until the industrial revolution, we lived outside. How did we get through the Neolithic Era without sunscreen? Actually, perfectly well. What’s counterintuitive is that dermatologists run around saying, ‘Don’t go outside, you might die.’”

In his lifetime Mick Fanning has grappled with a Great White Shark, yet he still takes the precaution of applying his Vertra tint.

So what does this mean for surfers?

Probably not much.

If you’re in the water consistently, chances are you’re producing plenty of Vitamin D (even if you use sunscreen), as surfers tend to miss certain body parts when applying sun-block (chest for paddling, foot soles for riding, top-middle of back because we’re too embarrassed to ask our friend), and because sunscreen is less effective when diluted in water.

Plus, the exercise of paddling around is great for your heart, which helps compensate for any Vitamin D lost from sunscreen use.  

The moral of the story is this: If your wife, husband, parent or other controlling entity is giving you a hard time about surfing too much, explain to them that being in the water isn’t pointless or selfish at all – it’s just about your heart health. 

And they don't want you to die, do they?

By: Michael Ciaramella, STAB Magazine read the article here

 
Mark Hosker
British Heart Foundation – Is sunshine good for us?
 
 

Shedding light on new ways to lower blood pressure

By Sorrel Bunting, Senior Research Engagement Officer at the British Heart Foundation

High blood pressure affects around 16 million people in the UK, and 7 million of us don’t even know we have it. Researchers around the world are looking for ways to help lower high blood pressure, including one BHF-funded team in Scotland investigating if a sunny day could do more for our health than we previously thought.

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What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the pressure inside our blood vessels, caused by blood pushing on the walls of the arteries — the larger blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of the body. We need to have a certain amount of pressure to be able to pump blood around our bodies effectively, but too much can be a problem.

Typically we will be advised that our blood pressure should be under 140/90

When we have our blood pressure measured, we are given two numbers. The first one is the highest pressure your blood vessels feel when your heart contracts (or beats) and forces blood around the body. The second number is the lowest pressure your vessels will experience when your heart relaxes in between beats. Typically doctors will advise that your blood pressure should be under 140/90 (pronounced “140 over 90”).

Why is high blood pressure bad for us?

If you’re told by a doctor that you have high blood pressure, this means that the pressure of the blood in your arteries is consistently higher than it should be. High blood pressure is not usually something you can feel but over time — if it is not treated — the strain means that your heart can become enlarged and pump less effectively, which can lead to heart failure.

High blood pressure increases our risk of heart and circulatory diseases, in fact around 50% of heart attacks and strokes are associated with high blood pressure. Research teams are working to find ways to lower high blood pressure and reduce our risk of serious complications.

Why are we talking about sunshine?

Sunshine is known to increase the risk of developing skin cancer. But we also hear a lot about sunshine and vitamin D, and how getting enough exposure is important for us to absorb calcium to grow and maintain healthy bones. Studies have shown that people living closer to the equator also have lower blood pressure.

So is sunshine good for us or not?

Dr Richard Weller and his team at the University of Edinburgh think that the lower blood pressure seen in people living nearer to the equator could be linked to levels of a chemical in the blood called nitric oxide (NO). NO helps our blood vessels to relax and lower blood pressure. And it’s not just blood vessels that produce NO, our skin does too!

His team are investigating whether exposure to sunlight could cause the release of NO in our skin and help reduce blood pressure. They have found that giving people a dose of ‘artificial sunlight’ — UVA light — can reduce their blood pressure. Interestingly, this was separate from the effects of just being warmed up or from vitamin D, which forms after exposure to UVB light.

They are now carrying out a BHF-funded study to see if giving people a dose of UVA light twice a day could lower the blood pressure of those approaching an unhealthy level, and therefore reduce their risk of heart and circulatory diseases.

They hope that this might shed light on how we can lower blood pressure in a drug-free way.

“I actually think a far more important message is that there are benefits as well as risks to sunlight … we need to find the risk-benefit ratio. How much sunlight is safe, and how can we finesse this best for our general health” — Dr Richard Weller

Sorrel Bunting, Senior Research Engagement Officer at the British Heart Foundation

 
Mark Hosker
DR Richard Weller appears on BBCTV - 'TRUST ME I'M A DOCTOR'

Is there such a thing as a safe tan?

We’re always being told to cover up in the sun – but the sun does have its benefits as well. So how much IS too much sun exposure?

Currently, the NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) recommends very short periods of exposure for people with fair or light skin and slightly longer for those with darker skin types. This is to balance the risk of skin cancer with the need for our skin to produce the vitamin D that we need for healthy bones and teeth.

But do these guidelines go far enough - or too far?

Michael Mosley talks to two researchers with opposing views to get a better understanding of what factors we must all consider when choosing how long to spend in the sun.

Dr Richard Weller, a dermatologist from the University of Edinburgh, believes there is a growing body of evidence to show that the benefits of sun exposure may out weight the risks.

In fact, far from shortening life, there is some suggestion that exposure to sunlight may actually prolong your life. In the UK you are more likely to die of a stroke or a heart attack compared to skin cancer and evidence is emerging that shows sunlight can reduce the risk of these diseases. His research suggests this may be due to the skin releasing a chemical called nitric oxide when it is exposed to the sun. Nitric oxide plays an important role in controlling cardiovascular activity in the body and so this could potentially play a role in the benefits of sun exposure to health.

But what about the risks of skin cancer?

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There are two types of skin cancer; melanoma and non-melanoma. Sunburn, particularly in childhood, is a risk factor for melanoma and so Dr Weller believes that avoiding sun burn, especially as a child, is very important. The mortality rate from melanoma is about 20%, making it the higher risk form of skin cancer.

Non-melanoma skin cancer affects about a quarter of a million people in the UK every year, but the death rate for this for of cancer is incredibly small. These cancers can simply be cut out and removed. In Denmark, research carried out on four million people suggests that life expectancy may actually be higher in people diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer, and Dr Weller believes this could be due to their sun exposure. It was also found that these patients are less likely to have had a heart attack when compared to their peers.

To watch the video and read the full BBC article click here

Mark Hosker