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Charles Institute Seminar Series 2022-23: The Emperor has no clothes’ Why dermatologist’s beliefs about sunlight are wrong with Guest Speaker Professor Richard Weller

Published: 01 March, 2023


Date of Talk: Wednesday 1st March, 2023 @12PM

Location: Charles Seminar Room / Online Via Zoom

Talk Title: The Emperor has no clothes’ Why dermatologist’s beliefs about sunlight are wrong

Speaker Details: Professor Richard Weller, MD, FRCP(Ed)
University of Edinburgh

Short Biography: Professor Weller is an academic dermatologist at the University of Edinburgh. He qualified in London, trained in internal medicine in the UK and Australia, in dermatology at St John’s Institute in London and in Scotland, and in research in Dusseldorf and Pittsburgh. He has a personal chair of Medical Dermatology at the University of Edinburgh.  His discovery of a vitamin D independent mechanism by which sunlight lowers blood pressure via release of nitric oxide from cutaneous stores, is forcing a re-assessment of public health advice on sunlight exposure.

Abstract for talk: Ultraviolet radiation is the major environmental risk factor for skin cancer in white skinned populations, yet no association between sunlight and increased all-cause mortality has ever been shown. Human populations dispersing from our African homeland and migrating to low light environments have repeatedly and via different genetic routes evolved pale skin, to mitigate the attenuation of UV driven biological mechanisms necessary for health.  These mechanisms, other than vitamin D, have been little studied.  Results from multiple studies of vitamin D intervention have shown that few of the observational inverse relationships between measured vitamin D and a wide variety of health outcomes indicate causation.  Other mechanisms have recently been discovered including nitric oxide release from skin, and widespread effects on systemic immune function. These mechanisms need further study if we are to understand the many diseases whose prevalence is inversely related to sun exposure.  Dermatologists should remember that all-cause mortality is a more important endpoint than reduction in skin cancer.