Vitamin D is synthesized in our skin from exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation, but exposure to UV radiation is also associated with increased risk of skin cancer, particularly melanoma. Maintaining optimum levels of vitamin D is important for many reasons, including reducing deaths from many types of cancers. How can we take advantage of the last month of summer and get our vitamin D from sunshine without increasing the risk of skin cancer?
Here is what I’ve learned from the websites of the Vitamin D Council and Dr. Joseph Mercola:
• Both the UVB and the longer wavelength UVA will cause sunburn and increase risk of cancer, but only UVB can create vitamin D.
• Expose to sunlight only during peak UVB hours when the sun is at 50° above the horizon (your shadow is shorter than you). Cover up the rest of the time.
• Expose skin without SPF sunscreen and for a short time only (10-20 minutes). Stop exposure at or preferably before the first hint of pink to avoid sunburn.
• Use a hat and clothing to cover; don’t depend on sunscreen lotion which often blocks only the beneficial UVB and not the harmful UVA, and may contain harmful chemicals. Always protect the face with a hat or safe natural sunscreen.
• Don’t wash exposed skin with soap for 48 hours after exposure to allow the vitamin D to be absorbed (washing or showering with plain water is ok).
• Glass and clouds block UVB but not UVA so you can get a sunburn in your car or on a cloudy day but you can’t make vitamin D.
• Regular low intensity sun exposure does not increase the risk of melanoma and in some cases actually lowers the risk. Studies in the UK link higher exposure to UVB with lower rates of 20 different cancers.
• Optimum vitamin D levels, either from appropriate sun exposure or supplementation, also appear to protect against sunburn – many people report that since taking D supplements they don’t sunburn as easily.
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.