For years, you’ve heard that sunbathing is bad for you and that you should avoid it at all costs. That is, unless you have to be out for some reason in the noonday sun, and then – you better use some ultra-high SPF sunscreen and wear a hat. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for developing the most deadly form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma. Why, even the name sends shivers down your spine.
So, when warmer weather arrives, many people become hermits, rather than risk sun over-exposure and the wrinkly skin and inevitable cancer they believe will surely result. But is this wise?
Believe it or not, the sun can actually be good for you. Even U.S. scientist Richard Setlow, who initially warned of the dangers of sun exposure and increased risk of skin cancer now says, “Not so fast!” It appears that the benefits of moderate sun exposure may actually outweigh some of the risks. The key word here is “moderate.”
Our bodies need Vitamin D and sunlight provides a natural source of it. Vitamin D protects against deadly forms of internal cancer, including those of the breast, lung, colon and prostate. It also is a key vitamin in the prevention of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis and a fundamental ingredient for bone health.
So, how do you minimize the risks of external malignant melanoma, while soaking in enough Vitamin D to minimize the risks of developing these other serious internal conditions?
Moderation is the key. Spend 20 minutes in the sun, with your hands, arms and face exposed, to get the necessary daily dose of Vitamin D. If you remain any longer, wear a hat and apply high SPF sunscreen frequently. A good rule of thumb is to spend time outdoors when your shadow is longer than your height. During the cooler months of the year, increase your Vitamin D intake with supplements and foods, such as fish and liver.
Scientists are also being challenged to create better sunscreens that continue to filter out the damaging radiation (UVA rays), while allowing more Vitamin D-stimulating radiation (UVB rays) to soak through the skin. Until then, moderation is the key.