Updated: March 5, 2016
The only thing that infuriates me more than people having pictures of their own children as a wallpaper on their work computer is when people with minus seven knowledge in physics and biology start preaching health and doom advice. To wit, the experiment where we see people under UV light, to supposedly prove how harmful sun can really be to our skin. I purposefully won't link to this crap.
Because I absolutely hate populistic topics without any solid background in science, I thought it would make sense to write this article. Rather than urge people to hide from the sun, I'd like to do quite the opposite. Highlight how ignorance breeds unnecessary fear, and point them into the lovely and glorious embrace of our star. Let us.
Is sun harmful?
The answer is, absolutely not. It is the key to all life on our planet. All of it. Sure, there might be certain locations where during certain periods of time during the day you might want to consider a bit of shade. But overall, for the past two or three billion years, the radiation from the sun has successfully helped create and nurture millions of life forms, among them the modern human. Hundreds of thousands of year before artificial lighting in the offices, sunscreen and selfie sticks, our ancestors walked under the blaze of the celestial nuclear reactor, enjoying its energy, evolving, growing, becoming stronger and more populous.
Now though, it is very social and popular to protest pretty much anything. It is a part of an alarmingly growing number of pseudo-lifestyle trends, which sell harmonious green agenda and rainbow dust to its religious followers, and to just to keep everyone on their toes, an occasional controversy is spun up. Milk, water, sun, anything that you'd think would be essential to life is suddenly on the can-cause-cancer list or some other random bullshit. The victim de jour is of course the sun and its evil rays.
Moderation is the key
Of course, if you're angling for a sensible discussion, the word you're looking for is moderation. In excess, pretty much anything and everything will kill you. Drink too much water, and you will die. Spend days and days under a scorching sun, and you will die. Of course, that's not the point. Because the extremes do not really help us answer what happens day to day, under normal circumstances. Furthermore, it is virtually impossible to separate the effects of one particular factor from hundreds and thousands of others over many decades, adding to the uncertainty. Luckily for everyone, this is exactly the kind of playground where pseudo-science thrives.
Supposedly, we are meant to feel shocked, appalled, disgusted, surprised, outraged, and eventually in agreement with the experiment organizers, once we see what we look like under a certain type of radiation. The whole thing might have benefits if conducted properly and with the right kind of agenda, but the focus is on shock value and misinformation.
First of all, it is meaningless to show to humans what we look like under any sort of radiation that is outside the visible spectrum. For that matter, why not show what humans look in the IR spectrum? Some kind of thermal bullshit? Why not x-ray? Why not radio? Or even audio? For that matter, you might as well peel skin off people and show what they look underneath. Just as valid and probably even more shocking.
Second, so what? UV radiation is just a small portion of the overall spectrum. And it is good for us, because evidently, we have successfully survived and evolved as a species, and we did it before the Internet had a corner for morons. Exposure to sun  leads to generation of Vitamin D, improved mood, and tons of other health benefits that I can't be arsed to list.
So what about the negative stuff? Here, it becomes interesting. We all know what happens when we go to the extreme. But we don't know what happens in the gray area in between. Much like ionizing radiation. Unfortunate incidents from our past have shown us the limits of human biology when exposed to very high levels of radiation, but we don't have any real statistics on small or even moderate exposure. Precaution plays a role here, especially since ionizing radiation plays no beneficial function in our biological cycle.
But the sun is good. We have already established that. However, for some reason, it is treated the same way ionizing radiation is, and there's this pseudo-scientific debate about exposures below the critical limits, which we can all agree aren't healthy. It's no longer the question of wandering through Sahara naked for weeks without end. It's all about your one hour walk in the park, a quick suntanning session at the beach, or any other normal activity. To make things worse, you cannot isolate the effect of sun from other factors, including but not limited to genetics, skin color, pigmentation, age, lifestyle, diet, smoking, alcohol drinking, stress, the use of drugs and medicines, sport activity, stupidity, and hundreds of other things. To sum it up:
The experiment premise is based on a lie: UV radiation = bad. It proves the point by showing us an image of what humans look look like under UV light or some shit like that. It ignores the beneficial - life-proven - effects the sun radiation has on us, on our health, our mood, everything.
The experiment conditions are those of everyday life, which cannot distinguish and separate other biological and environmental factors from the net effect of the UV radiation. Moreover, there is no single clearly established limit for healthy sun exposure, only recommendations, some positive, some negative, some cautionary but without any unequivocal proof AKA better safe than sorry, let's err on the side of caution lest we get sued by the public for leading them astray AKA ass covering. Recently, some of the medical recommendations are actually calling for a revisit of the old public health message .
The experiment is populistic and conducted without any scientific method.
The experiment has a clear political and social agenda.
But what about cancer?
Yes, UVR can be classified as a carcinogen. But it is also necessary for the production of Vitamin D. The thing is, in the developed world, most people are not spending enough time in the sun, even among rural populations . This means that far from being exposed to the UV light in quantities that would be considered harmful, most people do not have sufficient exposure to produce enough Vitamin D, which probably causes more damage and induces the risk of cancer than any amount of UV radiation. In fact, in the Western world, because of the unfounded scare around sunlight, unhealthy lifestyle and associated bullshit, most people actually suffer from Vitamin D deficiency. Even in the Middle East , because it's too damn hot to go out.
You need about 15 minutes of typical midday sun every day, with 40% of the skin exposed . The article does not elaborate where, so I'll assume continental US or Europe, which means probably half that if you're in the south of Italy and twice that if you're in Denmark or northern parts of Canada, say. Oh, I do apologize for neglecting people on other continents. Anyhow, 15 minutes, it seems, much longer if there's cloud cover. Plus you probably won't get a chance to spend your lunch time outside EVERY single day, so this means you may need a healthy hour or two out several times a week. Quite the opposite from what bullshit media would like to tell you.
Again, that does not mean people should burn themselves to a crisp. Or avoid sunscreen. But they should definitely spend ample time outside, in the sun, fully aware we have survived so far without any big problems.
Our ancestors didn't have air-conditioned offices or cars, and they worked in the fields for many long hours, and somehow we turned out fine as a species. Last but not the least, you should definitely not be making any life decisions based on a shitty, populistic video clips showing you what you look like to an alien race with UV eyes. To quote from the first referenced document, Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health (Mead, 2008):
Moreover, although excessive sun exposure is an established risk factor for cutaneous malignant melanoma, continued high sun exposure was linked with increased survival rates in patients with early-stage melanoma in a study reported by Marianne Berwick, an epidemiology professor at the University of New Mexico, in the February 2005 Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Holick also points out that most melanomas occur on the least sun-exposed areas of the body, and occupational exposure to sunlight actually reduced melanoma risk in a study reported in the June 2003 Journal of Investigative Dermatology.
In the context of inadequate sunlight or vitamin D insufficiency, some scientists worry that the emphasis on preventing skin cancers tends to obscure the much larger mortality burden posed by more life-threatening cancers such as lung, colon, and breast cancers. Many studies have shown that cancer-related death rates decline as one moves toward the lower latitudes (between 37 deg N and 37 deg S), and that the levels of ambient UVR in different municipalities correlate inversely with cancer death rates there. As you head from north to south, you may find perhaps two or three extra deaths [per hundred thousand people] from skin cancer, says Vieth. At the same time, though, you'll find thirty or forty fewer deaths for the other major cancers. So when you estimate the number of deaths likely to be attributable to UV light or vitamin D, it does is not appear to be the best policy to advise people to simply keep out of the sun just to prevent skin cancer.
Defining disdain with words can be sometimes quite challenging. The sunlight phobia is another in a long string of pseudo-healthy religious movements gripping the bored and pointless people suffering from too many 1st world problems and the social media identity protest crisis. It sits there with the CO2 masturbation, meat consumption, hybrid cars, and all other idiocratic concepts. A token of herd mentality and stupidity.
UV radiation may have its negative effects, but the best proof to its amazing wonders is the abundance of life on our planet. Perhaps some people may need a little more diligence or extra cream when they go out, and some others may need more vitamins. But no one needs idiots and their scaremongering. They play no biological role, and as such they should be eradicated. Next time someone tries to impress you with a shocking video showing you the holy truth, please make sure you shift+delete their Internet. It's in everyone's benefit. You owe it to your fellow human, and the sun. See you around.
Again, because you think articles are more credible if they cite references, here you go: