Sun holidays damage DNA and cause cancer

Who doesn’t like going on holidays!

India for kids

Some of us like to sit in the sun for hours, be it on the beach or enjoying skiing. Sadly, while we are lazing away in the sun, the solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR) of the very sun we are enjoying can actually cause damage to our DNA. Here’s an interesting article that was published in the prestigious Journal of Investigative Dermatology (Nature Publishing Group).

A group of scientists headed by Mark Nieuwenhuijsen of St John’s Institute of Dermatology, Guy’s Hospital in London, investigated that although sunlight increases the vitamin D status, the ultraviolet radiation in the sun can cause DNA damage. The way the DNA is damaged is by forming thymine dimers (T-T dimmers) increasing chances of skin cancer.

Thymine is one of 4 bases of DNA represented by the letter T. Other nucleotides include adenine (A), guanine (G), and cytosine (C). They are the subunits (building blocks) of DNA that link to form the strands of DNA. In order to form the 2 stands of double-stranded that contain the genetic information, the bases, guanine (G) and cytosine (C) while adenine (A) and thymine (T) form base pairs via hydrogen bonds. What the UVR light can do is cause photo-damage to the DNA by causing the formation of molecular lesions called the T-T dimmers. These are often called pre-mutagenic lesions and happen to be altered DNA structures that have the ability to be mutagenic. Basically, these dimmers have the ability to cause melanomas (skin cancer) in human beings.

cancer from sun holidays

Those going on holidays in the sun will have to make a decision if exposing themselves in the sun is worth the risk or not. Although one cannot completely eliminate sun exposure, the time they expose themselves will have to be monitored. Basically it’s a matter of maintaining optimal vitamin D status and minimizing risk of skin cancer.

One of the major drawbacks of this experiment was that a small sample section (n=71) was used and the assessment was carried out over a period of only 6 days. In addition, the observations were made based on the holiday maker’s diary registrations. Furthermore, there was no mention of the holiday destination. The part of the body that was exposed to the sun was also not mentioned.

Melanoma from sun exposure

What this study shows that although sun is good for vitamin D, it has the ability to damage DNA. For a holiday maker in the sun, this means they will have to make efforts to reduce their exposure to the sun. Although this experiment was carried out on 2 nationalities – Danish and Spanish, a wider section of the people would need to be carried out to get a better picture. Also dietary habits also need to be taken into account. For instance, some people eat more eggs which are high in vitamin D. Also gender, skin type, age, variations in the way subjects applied sunscreens and the rest of the variable parameters could also have affected the results.

But then this a real life study carried out on actual people holidaying in the sun. The tests speak for themselves. Those in the sun for extended hours had increased T-T dimmers (in the urine) and 25(OH)D (vitamin D in blood serum).

Sun holiday

How do you protect yourself from UV rays?

More people are likely to die from skin cancer caused by too much exposure to the sun than due to low levels of vitamin D. Considering that malignant melanoma is one of the most common types of cancer in the Western world (white skinned population), those travelling to sunny destinations will have to take precautions to prevent excess exposure to the sun.

Let’s take a look at how we can protect ourselves from the sun. Living in a hot country like that of India where temperatures often reach 45 degree Celsius, this is coming from firsthand experience.

You can use a Sun Meter UV card that measures the intensity of the UV rays that can burn your skin. These cards change color from white to dark purple depending on the UV ray strength. It’s quite useful when going on holidays.

Apply sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor of more than 30. Although it does not completely protect you from the harmful radiation of the sun, it does prevent penetration of harmful radiation. I don’t go out without it. You can always use something called, Sun Bum spray sunscreen for kids.

Protect your skin with clothing. Wear long sleeved shirts and pants. But mind you, clothing does not protect you completely. If you can see through a garment, this means that UV light can go through too. Clothing that are tightly woven helps deflect UV rays more than thin cotton. There’s a range of UV protective clothing for both men and women. For instance this, “Columbia Women’s Bahama Long Sleeve Shirt” supposed to be made from material that blocks the sun’s harmful rays.

…If you are travelling to India in the summer, you should read this.

Wear sun protection gloves. For those doing skiing or engaging in sports, it’s a good idea to wear sun gloves especially by those who are going to be in the sun whole day. Some even wear arm sleeves such as these to protect their arms. It’s certainly good for activities such as cycling, fishing, golfing, jogging, and climbing types of outdoor activities.

Wear a cap. At least you will have your face in the shade. Make sure that you have a cap with a wide brim and a neck flap.

When out in bright sunlight you should always wear sunglasses. Not only will they protect your eyesight from harmful ultraviolet rays, but wearing large-framed wraparound shades also protects your face from sunburn. If you already wear spectacles, you could always invest in some prescription sunglasses for your trip. Visit website here to find out more.

Spend more time in the shade. Carry an umbrella if you have to. This Coolibar UPF 50+ Titanium Fashion Umbrella deflects the damaging ultraviolet rays. I personally don’t go out without one either.

If you see any unusual moles or freckles on the skin then get it checked with a doctor.

So you see, it’s a delicate balance between exposing yourself to the sun and getting vitamin D. Just because a well reputed journal has come out with a research, this does not mean people will stop going on holidays. You just have to be more careful and balance it appropriately.

What are your thoughts on this study? Do you have some of your own ways to prevent the sun, if you yes then please feel free to share them below?

61 thoughts on “Sun holidays damage DNA and cause cancer”

  1. Hi Shalu
    It’s really a much need post especially for those who live in relatively hot-weather countries and enjoy sun bath.
    The best way to avoid sun burn is no doubt fully protecting oneself from such harms but after effect cure is equally important which you well mentioned in your post.
    Thanks for sharing this wonderful post.

  2. Hi Shalu,

    Yes, the heat wave is getting at it’s peak in most parts of the country and you need to protect your skin at such times, just as you mentioned in the post.

    We usually wear sun glasses, hats, wear full sleeves and apply sun screen whenever we go out, though we avoid it when the sun rays are strongest and that helps. Certain local drinks also help in this weather.

    Thanks for sharing, and I shall now see you after a few days of break. 🙂

  3. There are certain hours the sun is most dangerous you should avoid them. You should go for sun bathing in the morning and late in the afternoon and avoid midday sun altogether. Of course your suggestions are great as well and you should use sun creams, umbrellas and clothing to protect yourself.

  4. Great article! As a skin cancer survivor, I cannot stress the importance of sunblock. I wear it 365 days a year, all seasons. One can never be too careful. I know it’s inevitable that I die, but I’ll be darn if I let it be from skin cancer.

    • Hi Brenda
      One just has to be careful. Too much sun is certainly not too good for your skin. Skin cancer is one the rise all over the world and the sun has a part to play. Too much sun holidays can be a bad thing too. Thanks for your comment.

  5. The summer’s here and everyone seems to be sunbathing, but not me. With my pale and sensitive skin I need to be extremely careful with exposing my skin to the sun. Thanks for recommending a great variety of products. I’ll check them out!

  6. Very helpful article as a lot of people forget that they will spend time outside in sun during holidays and need to take protection. Good tips that should help everybody to safely enjoy the holidays in tropical places like India.

  7. Agreed, I had heard such study years ago. That’s why I wear gloves to cover my hand and arms whenever I drive my bike in sun. After all precaution is better than cure.

  8. Surely, it is simple: Keep moving, and protect yourself.
    Just lying in beach for hours on end, could be a good vacation choice, but if you feel yourself getting hot…move! This is the same all over the World.

  9. Recently I visited Goa and spent a lot of time on beaches.And as a result my skin got tanned and became so dark and dull.What should I do now ?My skin color will restore automatically or do I need to consult a skin doctor ?

    • I think you should apply lemon juice as it has bleaching properties or yoghurt on your skin as it reduces redness. Raw potato is another one as it reduces redness again.

  10. As usual Great article!.Sun bathing is one my favorite hobby.To be honest I never really worried about side affects of sunbathing.But now after reading this post I will take required steps to protect my skin from those hot rays.

  11. Yeah, You are absolutely right. The India have great culture and environment but now days we cannot say that India also have great Environment due to pollution. And the Sun rays are very dangerous in the summer so everyone should follow your steps to travel in India.

  12. Thanks Shalu…it was a good read. Also wouuld like to add one more suggestion to increase intake of water than normal.Also as a caution restricting completely from sunlight have equally bad effects because of vitamin D deficiency. Problems associated with it in children is on rise especially in Middle East and West Asian countries.

  13. Is that true ma’am sun bath cause cancer ?? someone says sun rays good for skin.Now after reading this post Iam really worried about that.But Thanks for sharing this awesome stuff.

  14. Sunburn is a clear sign that the DNA in your skin cells has been damaged by too much UV radiation. Sunburn doesn’t have to be raw, peeling or blistering. If your skin has gone red in the sun, it’s sunburnt. Useful article thaks for sharing 🙂

  15. We love the sun and the beach so know that we are at a huge risk! We try and behave ourselves by wearing sunscreen and go to the beach early morning/late afternoon to keep out of the midday sun.

  16. This is indeed a great blog post and I really enjoyed reading. Nature Publishing Group has shared an enormous article as well. I’ve never thought sun bath can be a reason for skin cancer. Although whenever I hit to the beach I usually sun bath for hours. Hopefully my skin is still okay. I’ll definitely consult with my physician about such fact ASAP. Thanks for letting know about such important information through publishing such article recommendation.

  17. Every one should prevent himself from summer sun especially in those countries where it is intense because the ultraviolet rays can cause mutations and can be result of cancer.But in less amount it is useful as it helps to synthesize vitamin D.

  18. Like every coin have two sides same case apply here that taking sun bath is good in terms of vitamin D but if one cross the limit he or she can be affected by these kind of problem. The tips and tricks that you have mention in your post is easy and seems to be effective. I will surely apply those.

  19. The use of a really good sunscreen is necessary in order to be protected. Wearing gloves is a really good idea, along with a hat and sunglasses. Sun is wonderful to enjoy but we have to take our measures and be safe especially in hot countries like India, Greece etc. Nice article and well said!

  20. Yeah true who don’t like to went out for holiday but these sunny days ruin all the things. Personally I don’t like hot days and now a days these skin problem also there. By the way thank you so much for this post.

  21. Hi Shalusharma;

    Great informative article. I am blonde and fair skinned and I have been to India twice and I love it but one has to be very aware of sun damage and protect oneself from the risks that this may bring.

    Thanks for sharing

  22. Hello
    Thanks for the honesty in your article. There’s so much out there that they don’t want us to know because the Pharmaceutical Industry can’t make any money from the “cure” (you can only sell the cure once), they try to suppress the knowledge of simple and effective “natural” cures.

    It doesn’t matter if it’s the common cold or different forms of Cancer…remember; you can only sell the cure once, but you can keep on selling medication to “hide” or suppress the syptoms, over and over again.

  23. Hello Mam! We love the sun and the beach so know that we are at a huge risk! We try and act ourselves by tiring sunscreen and go to the beach early morning/late afternoon to keep out of the midday sun. Thanks for sharing this amazing article.

  24. Excellent post Shalu! Skin cancer is something that hits extremely close to home, although 3 people in my family have had it, they are all survivors, thank God. I personally have had three moles removed as they were considered precancerous. Now, I always use sun skin or a minimum of SPF 10 on my face and arms every day before I go out. Getting a lotion for your skin that works as a SPF as well is vital! Thanks again for the post!

  25. I couldn’t agree more. We all live in the sun but we do not take consideration about its effects on us. I can’t go out without applying sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor. This post is very informative.

  26. Like a mole, it is caused simply by the skin cell pigmentation. Skin tags on the other hand, are caused by virus infection and can appear as tiny to a pencil eraser-like soft flaps, while warts are naturally caused by a virus known as HPV with an oval growth or raised round on your skin, characterized by rough surfaces.

  27. nice article write for share information Skin tags on the other hand, are caused by virus infection and can appear as tiny to a pencil eraser-like soft flaps, while warts are naturally caused by a virus known as HPV with an oval growth or raised round on your skin, characterized by rough surfaces.

  28. Good share Shalu, but the link to the study is dead and redirects to the homepage of dermatology journal. But no worries as I got a glimpse of what was the study about.

    I agree that we need to expose to sunlight in order to form the Vit. D3 but it takes only a few minutes of exposure to achieve what we need. Exposing yourself to sunlight early in morning will do the trick, you don’t need to do in the noon.

  29. its an amazing article about how to protect your skin from sun and also how to travel in india and also in other hot countries in summer.. its a very useful article for all travel lovers..

  30. Thanks for sharing this information I’m so glad to read this the content you presented in this site is wonderful and it’s going to help a number of people…God Bless you…

  31. I really don’t know that UV rays can cause cancer. In my country, the outdoor temperature can reach 42 degrees in summer but I don’t use suncream frequently. This post is really useful for me. I will take care of my skin more by using the tips. Thank you so much!


Leave a Comment

Holiday and Travel Guide to India