We are at peak sunlight season right now (the days are actually getting shorter but let’s not think about that just yet) so it’s time to review safe tanning procedures. The sun is high enough for the beneficial UVB rays to penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere at this latitude from about 12:00 to 2:00 in May and August, and from 11:00 to 3:00 in June and July. Both UVA and UVB will cause sunburn – and potentially melanoma – but only UVB can synthesize vitamin D.
As I have written before, the safest way to use sunlight to make vitamin D is to expose as much skin as possible for a short period of time (10-20 minutes) in early afternoon on a sunny day. To avoid sunburn, stop exposure before the skin turns light pink. As you tan throughout the summer, the length of exposure can gradually increase. The rest of the time you should cover up with clothing or a safe natural sunscreen. This includes mid-morning, mid to late afternoon, on cloudy days, and through glass (like a car window) – all times when we can sunburn but cannot synthesize vitamin D.
Check your sunscreen label carefully. Many block UVB radiation only. The two safest and most effective ingredients for blocking the more harmful UVA are zinc oxide and titanium oxide.
Don’t let the scare of skin cancer keep you completely out of the sun. Regular low intensity (for a short time period) sun exposure does not increase the risk of melanoma and actually lowers your risk of all cancers. Outdoor workers like farmers and fishermen have a lower rate of melanoma than indoor workers like office clerks, and melanoma often occurs on areas of skin not exposed to sunlight. Melanoma patients with higher levels of vitamin D have a higher survival rate. And as I have frequently written, there are many, many other benefits of vitamin D. A meta-analysis published April 2014 in Am. J. Public Health found that deaths from all causes was 1.9 times (nearly twice) as high for people with the lowest vitamin D blood levels compared with those with the highest levels.
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.