The Pros and Cons of Sunshine

The Pros and Cons of Sunshine

Ahhh…Memorial Day weekend! It’s finally warm enough to shed some layers and head outdoors again. Hopefully the sun will be shining where you live. Scientific researchers have told us that sunshine is good for us and that sunshine is bad for us. So, should we seek after the sun, or run and hide from it?

As with most things in life, moderation is the way to go when it comes to sun exposure. The “pro” of sun exposure is that it’s the natural way our body creates vitamin D—which is touted for its bone strengthening, immune system fortifying properties. In order to produce your daily vitamin D requirement you need to spend 20 minutes in the sun with both arms and legs exposed. Not surprisingly, experts have blamed the vitamin D deficit epidemic on the heavy use of sun block.

Spending more than 30-60 minutes in the sun without sun block leads to the “con” of sun exposure—sunburns that can potentially lead to skin cancer. The burning of our skin, even if skin cancer doesn’t develop, works against the overall health of our bodies because of the free radical particles a burn produces. These free radicals speed the aging process in our bodies, skin included. What’s a person to do?

My advice*: If you are of fair to medium complexion, limit your unadulterated sun exposure to 20-30 minutes per day. For darker, rarely-burn complexions, apply sun block after 30-60 minutes. If you have been told by your doctor that you have precancerous skin lesions, or if you have a family history of melanoma, use sun block and get your vitamin D from a less sunny source.

Enjoy “D” outdoors but remember to sun bathe responsibly!

*Please note I am a researcher, not a dermatologist.

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