A smarter way to sunbathe

Cancer isn’t exactly full of silver linings. That much goes without saying. So when I came across this next bit of news, I really couldn’t wait to share it.

As part of a recent study, researchers followed over 1,000 subjects with an average age of 79 for just under four years.

None of the subjects had dementia when the study began. But 109 reported a history of skin cancer. Over the next several years, 32 more subjects went on to develop skin cancer–while 126 subjects went on to develop dementia, the majority of which was Alzheimer’s related.

But here’s the thing: Subjects who had skin cancer were almost 80 percent less likely to wind up with Alzheimer’s than those without. (Though the link didn’t apply to other forms of cognitive decline, like vascular dementia.)

These results appeared in a recent issue of Neurology. And they might come as a surprise to some people. But not to me.

Published research shows a clear protective influence from vitamin D against Alzheimer’s disease. And what’s your best source of vitamin D?

The sun, of course. But that doesn’t mean skin cancer is an inevitable consequence of getting your vitamin D the way nature intended.

I’ve always been a fan of sensible sunbathing. And this is precisely why. Because if you’re smart about it–limiting mid-day exposure to just 20 to 30 sunscreen-free minutes daily–you really can get the best of both worlds.

Nonmelanoma skin cancer is associated with reduced Alzheimer disease risk. Neurology, 2013; 80 (21): 1966.