Is it advisable to wear UV-protected swimsuit that covers arms and legs for skin protection to ward off skin cancer?
Or is it too paranoid, given that most men and women wear swimming trunks / bikinis / swimsuits?
The sun provides benefits such as vitamin D. Is swimming in trunks alone actually healthier for the men's body?
As critiqued in comments, this answer possibly misrepresents the vitamin D situation, which is better described here. Proceed with suspicion!
Because of the associated cancer risk, protecting your skin from sunlight is a good idea, also when swimming, and especially by wearing UV-absorptive clothing. Sunscreen makes a huge difference too.
You can get enough vitamin D from even a few minutes of sunlight, and also otherwise from cheap nutritional supplements. Exposing your skin to solar UV is pretty much only a negative.
Whether something is "too paranoid" is for each to judge for themselves, based on the facts.
The WHO page Are there beneficial effects of UV radiation? advises this as to benefits of UV radiation:
There is no doubt that a little sunlight is good for you! But 5 to 15 minutes of casual sun exposure of hands, face and arms two to three times a week during the summer months is sufficient to keep your vitamin D levels high. Closer to the equator, where UV levels are higher, even shorter periods of exposure suffice.
Hence, for most people, vitamin D deficiency is unlikely. Possible exceptions are those who have very limited sun exposure such as the housebound elderly, or those with heavily pigmented skin who live in high-latitude countries where UV levels are relatively low.
They also advise on the negatives on the page What are the effects of UV on the skin?:
There is no such thing as a healthy tan! The skin produces a dark-coloured pigment, melanin, as a shield against further damage from UV radiation. The darkening provides some protection against sunburn: a dark tan on a white skin offers a sun protection factor of between 2 and 4. However, it is no defence against long-term UV damage such as skin cancer. A suntan may be cosmetically desirable, but in fact it is nothing but a sign that your skin has been damaged and has attempted to protect itself.
According to Cancer Research UK's facts page on skin cancer,
1 in 54 people will be diagnosed with malignant melanoma during their lifetime.
According to the same page, your chances of surviving after diagnosis for 1 year are 97%, for 5 years 90%, and for 10 years 90%.
According to Skin Cancer Foundation's facts page,
The vast majority of melanomas are caused by the sun. In fact, one UK study found that about 86 percent of melanomas can be attributed to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
Swimwear is healthier the more it protects your skin from sunlight.
There are always some obstacles to always doing the healthiest thing though. For instance—
- More clothing means more weight and heat, which may make going swimming less convenient for you, especially if you like to swim competitively and in warm water. Since exercise is itself healthy, it would be unwise to discourage it by making it feel like a chore!
- Cultural resistance: pool maintainers in some places (e.g. France) have been known to refuse guests with swimwear that doesn't look like swimwear, out of hygiene concerns. It might be wise to get staff permission or bring an alternative set to avoid disappointment.
I hope this helps you to decide!