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  • Sunshine Health Foundation

Special Message for Black Americans

Updated: Nov 24



The Sun Exposure Component of Health Disparities Between Black and White Americans


Black Americans suffer from the ill effects of insufficient sun exposure far more than White Americans. This is because their black skins have a larger amount of melanin, and melanin blocks some of the sun’s rays. This larger amount of melanin suited Black Americans’ ancestors well in the strong tropical sun of Africa but is ill-suited for the weaker sun of the United States. Black Americans therefore need more sun exposure than White Americans. Click here for more information on this subject. This is a significant part of the reason for the enormous health disparities between Black and White Americans.


Listed below are some of the diseases related to insufficient sun exposure, the year the relationship between such diseases and insufficient sun exposure was discovered, and the incidence of such diseases in Black Americans compared to White Americans.


1. Insufficient sun exposure increases the risk of multiple sclerosis by 100%.

(Discovered in 2003)


The incidence of multiple sclerosis is 47% higher in Black Americans than in White Americans. Minority populations in the United States have a higher incidence of multiple sclerosis compared with their ancestral countries of origin.


2. Insufficient sun exposure increases the risk of colon cancer by 104%. (Discovered in 2007)


The incidence of colon cancer is 19% higher in Black Americans than in White Americans, and Black Americans are 145% more likely to die from colon cancer than White Americans.


3. Insufficient sun exposure increases the risk of high blood pressure.

(Discovered in 2009)


The incidence of hypertension is 37% higher in Black Americans than in White Americans, and mortality due to hypertension and its consequences is 4 to 5 times more likely in Black Americans than in White Americans. Notably, the incidence of hypertension in black-skinned persons is far lower in Africa and increases in a consistent gradient from Africa to the Caribbean to the United States. Black Americans are 30% more likely to die from heart disease than White Americans. Black American women are 60% more likely to have high blood pressure than White American women.


4. Insufficient sun exposure increases the risk of tuberculosis by 400%. (Discovered in 2010)


The incidence of TB is 700% higher in Black Americans than in White Americans.


5. Insufficient sun exposure of pregnant women and infants increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

(Discovered in 2013)


SIDS rates of Black Americans are more than twice those of White Americans.


6. Insufficient sun exposure increases the risk of type 2 diabetes by 35%. (Discovered in 2013)


The incidence of type 2 diabetes is 56% higher in Black Americans than in White Americans, and Black Americans are twice as likely to die from type 2 diabetes than White Americans.


7. Insufficient sun exposure increases the risk of stroke by 82%.

(Discovered in 2013)


Black Americans are 50 percent more likely to have a stroke than White Americans. Black women are twice as likely to have a stroke as White women. Black men are 70 percent more likely to die from a stroke as compared to White men.


8. Insufficient sun exposure increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis by 27%. (Discovered in 2013)


The incidence of rheumatoid arthritis in Black American men is 70% higher than in White American men, and is 100% higher in Black American women than in White American women.


9. Insufficient sun exposure shortens life expectancy.

(Discovered in 2014)


Black Americans have a 3½ year shorter life expectancy than White Americans. A 2014 study found that 12.8% of U.S. deaths (340,000 deaths per year) are attributable to insufficient sun exposure, but did not break down this figure by race. It is probable that these deaths occurred disproportionately among Black Americans.


10. Insufficient sun exposure increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 122%. (Discovered in 2014)


The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in Black Americans is 100% higher than in White Americans.


11. Insufficient sun exposure increases the risk of asthma.

(Discovered in 2014)


The incidence of asthma in the United States is 40% higher in Black Americans than in White Americans. The mortality rate of asthma is 200% higher for Black Americans than for White Americans. Black children are 5 times more likely to be admitted to the hospital for asthma than White children.


12. Insufficient sun exposure increases the risk of obesity.

(Discovered in 2014)


The incidence of obesity in Black Americans is 18% higher than in White Americans.


13. Insufficient sun exposure increases the risk of preterm birth by 132%. (Discovered in 2016)


The pre-term birth rate is 64% higher for Black Americans than for White Americans. Black Americans have 2.3 times the infant mortality rate of White Americans. Black American infants are 3.8 times more likely to die from complications related to low birthweight as compared to White American infants.


14. Insufficient sun exposure increases the risk of stomach cancer.

(Discovered in 2016)


Black American men are 1.7 times as likely to have stomach cancer as White American men and are 2.5 times more likely to die from stomach cancer. Black American women are twice as likely to have stomach cancer as White American women and are 2.2 times as likely to die from stomach cancer.


15. Insufficient sun exposure of pregnant women increases the risk of childhood obesity.

(Discovered in 2018)


35.9% of Black American children ages 2-9 are overweight or obese compared to 29.3% of White American children of the same age.


16. Insufficient sun exposure increases the risk of incidence and mortality from COVID-19.

(Discovered in 2020)


Black Americans are 2.8 times as likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 as White Americans, and 2.0 times as likely to die from COVID-19.


The Solution for Black Americans


The solution is for all Black Americans to get enough sun exposure to raise their serum 25(OH)D levels up to 30 ng/mL. This is best achieved by lying in the sun at mid-day with as much of their body as possible exposed to the sun. Persons concerned about getting too much sun on their faces can simply cover their faces with a white towel. At latitude 35 degrees (Washington, D.C. is 39 degrees, Atlanta is 34 degrees, Dallas is 33 degrees and Los Angeles is 34 degrees), most Black Americans can increase their 25(OH)D levels to 30 ng/mL in less than a year with less than an hour of sun exposure daily (more is required at higher latitudes and less is required at lower latitudes).


The first step is to get a standard vitamin D blood test from your doctor. If your vitamin D level is below 30 ng/mL, you need more sun exposure to avoid the poor health resulting from insufficient sun exposure.


Message to Black American Women Who are Pregnant or Planning to Become Pregnant


Lack of sufficient sun exposure during pregnancy can cause unnecessary pregnancy risks for you and can have devastating impacts on the health of your child.


Here is what recent scientific studies have shown.


  • Insufficient sun exposure of pregnant women increases the risk of severe lower respiratory tract viral infection in offspring in the first year of life by 500%, likelihood of poor lung development and decreased production of anti-microbial peptides in infants.

  • Insufficient sun exposure during pregnancy increases the risk that your child will have asthma.

  • In 2019, Black American children had a death rate from asthma eight times that of White American children. In 2017, Black American children were 5 times more likely to be admitted to the hospital for asthma, as compared to White American children.

  • Insufficient sun exposure of pregnant women increases the risk of preterm birth by 144 %.

  • The preterm birth rate is 64% higher for Black Americans than for White Americans. Black Americans have 2.3 times the infant mortality rate of White Americans. Black American infants are 3.8 times more likely to die from complications related to low birthweight as compared to White American infants.

  • Insufficient sun exposure of pregnant women increases the risk that their newborns will die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in infancy or early childhood.

  • SIDS rates of Black American children are more than twice those of White American children.

  • Insufficient sun exposure of pregnant women increases the risk that their newborns will die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in infancy or early childhood.

  • SIDS rates of Black American children are more than twice those of White American children.

  • Insufficient sun exposure of pregnant women increases the risk of type 1 diabetes in their male children at ages 5-9 years by 67%.

  • According the CDC, between 2002 and 2015, type 1 diabetes cases among Black American children increased 50% more than among White American children, and Black American children are twice as likely as White American children to die from the disease.

  • Insufficient sun exposure of pregnant women increases the risk of having an autistic child by 142%.

  • Black American children are more at risk for autism than White American children.

  • Insufficient sun exposure of pregnant women increases the risk of her child developing schizophrenia by 44%.

  • Black Americans are 2.4 times more likely than White Americans to develop schizophrenia.

  • Insufficient sun exposure of pregnant women adversely affects brain development of the fetus, and is associated with poor mental development to the extent that the chances of the infant developing an IQ over 110 are decreased by 50%.

  • Insufficient sun exposure of pregnant women increases the risk of child developing juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

  • Insufficient sun exposure of pregnant women increases the risk of childhood obesity.

  • Insufficient sun exposure of pregnant women increases the risk that their child will be born with low 25(OH)D. Children with 25(OH)D less than 11 ng/mL at birth have a 104% increased risk of high blood pressure at ages 3 to 18 years, and high blood pressure at these ages in an important determinant of subsequent hypertension and cardiovascular disease later in life.

  • Insufficient sun exposure of pregnant women increases the risk of multiple sclerosis in offspring. Pregnant women with 25(OH)D in early pregnancy less than 12 ng/mL compared to more than 12 ng/mL have a 90% increased risk of having a child with multiple sclerosis.

  • The incidence of multiple sclerosis is 47% higher in Black Americans than in White Americans. Minority populations in the United States have a higher incidence of multiple sclerosis compared with their ancestral countries of origin.

  • Insufficient sun exposure of women in the first 26 weeks of pregnancy increases the risk of severe preeclampsia by 67%. Preeclampsia in mothers resulting from insufficient sun exposure leads to high blood pressure in their children .


Then there is the matter of Black American maternal mortality. On May 16, 2019, Allyson Felix, the only woman to win six Olympic track and field gold medals, testified to a House committee holding hearings on racial disparities in maternal mortality. She told the committee of her own terrifying experiences of coming near to death during the birth of her daughter. She told the committee she was shocked that in the 21st century women in America are still dying from childbirth. She later learned that Black American women are three times as likely to die from childbirth as white women. There has not yet been a study tying maternal mortality to insufficient sun exposure, but it is a likely suspect.






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