The season of sun rays and sun basking is here. What are we to think when we are told that the sun is healthy for us, yet poses threats to our bodies at the same time due to damaging UV rays? Some people are so concerned that they cover up like they are about to journey through the Arabian Desert. Others are eager to turn their skin a dark brown shade as soon as the sun comes out. There are both advantages and disadvantages to sun exposure, let’s take a look at these.
The fact is sun can age your skin. Photo-aging is the dermatological term for skin aging that has been caused by the sun. This damage includes signs such as wrinkling, dryness, and rough looking and feeling skin. UVB rays are shorter wavelengths that are responsible for sunburns and they are also capable of causing immune system suppression of the skin cells. It is the longer wavelengths known as UVA that can create molecules of oxygen that are highly reactive and able to damage the membranes of skin cells as well as the internal DNA of these cells1.
Risks of Sun Exposure
When we are considering the risk and correlation between sun exposure and skin cancer. The interactions are somewhat complicated. It is speculated by dermatologists that a sudden exposure to high-intensity sun is more dangerous than a chronic sun exposure for periods of lower intensity. It is also true that individuals who are more likely to burn are at a higher risk for skin related cancers such as melanoma.
You must also consider that genes play a role in determining the risk factors for cancer. Another important aspect of looking at the relationship between sun exposure, the skin, and cancer, is diet. Healthy diets that are high in antioxidants protect against damaging free radicals in the body that can be the precursor cells to cancer. It is true that the more antioxidants and nutrients that are provided through your diet, the lower your risk of cancer development.
A 2003 research study described in the Journal of National Cancer Institute found that the age at which you get a sunburn in your life is an important risk factor for cancer development. If you get a burn before the age of 20, you are at an increased danger of developing cancerous skin problems. The UVB rays that are responsible for burns to the skin, as well as DNA damage, also play an important role in the metabolism’s chain reactions of vitamin D synthesis.
We have all been recently hearing about how many people are suffering from low levels of vitamin D. Bone health is associated with vitamin D levels. To have good bones, it is necessary to have adequate amounts. Sun exposure is important to obtain vitamin D for the prevention of conditions such as osteoporosis and rickets3. Vitamin D supports not only Calcium but also Phosphorus deposition in the body, which is an important mineral found in the teeth, bones and cellular nucleic acids. It is used for multiple bodily functions involving the transfer and storage of energy within the body and allowing for the permeability of cells.
There is a possibility that lowered vitamin D levels are associated with multiple sclerosis and prostate problems. There is some debate over this area of scientific research. Most doctors will recommend a minimum of 15 minutes per day of sun exposure to ensure adequate levels of vitamin D be made available for the body3b. The sun needs to be only moderately intense in order for health benefits to be obtained.
Seasonal affective disorder and depression problems are also connected to not having enough sunlight on your body. Many people feel blue during the darker and colder months of winter. The light that is received by both your eyes and your skin is important in the reversal of seasonal affective disorder. Being outside is natural for us, and helps us to get the exercise that we need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Being smart about how we are affected by the sun is important to consider.
No one wants to put his or her self at risk of getting skin cancer. Dermatologists will usually recommend using a sunscreen of at least 15 SPF. That stands for sun protection factor when you are outside4. The hottest part of the day, when the sun is highest in the sky – usually between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. – is when you are most likely to get a sunburn. It may be wise to consider using a longer sleeved shirt and hat. If you burn easily, use a higher SPF and take the necessary precautions when dressing. Getting a burn is not pleasant. Slowly developing a glowing tan to your skin can be considered healthy.
If you do feel that you have reason to be concerned, speak to a dermatologist. Get checked over for any signs of skin cancer. If skin cancer is diagnosed in its earliest development, it is likely treatable. There are great benefits to moderate sun exposure. Take the time to regularly inspect your skin, care for your body from the inside out with a healthy.
There are great benefits to moderate sun exposure. Remember to take the time to regularly inspect your skin, care for your body from the inside out with a healthy diet, and get outside to enjoy some sun in a healthy way.
1“Risks and Benefits” (PDF). http://www.cancer.org.au//File/PolicyPublications/PSRisksBenefitsSunExposure03May07.pdf. Retrieved 2010-05-13.
2 Risk factors and causes of skin cancer. http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Cancerinformation/Cancertypes/Skin/Aboutskincancer/Causes.aspx
3a,bThe Skin Cancer Foundation – “The Vitamin D Dilemma | Vitamin D”. Skincancer.org. http://www.skincancer.org/scf-journal-2008.html. Retrieved 2012-04-28.
4Mead MN (April 2008). “Benefits of sunlight: a bright spot for human health”. Environmental Health Perspectives 116 (4): A160–7. doi:10.1289/ehp.116-a160. PMC 2290997. PMID 18414615. http://www.ehponline.org/members/2008/116-4/focus.html.
Lucas RM, Repacholi MH, McMichael AJ (June 2006). “Is the current public health message on UV exposure correct?”. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 84 (6): 485–91. doi:10.2471/BLT.05.026559. PMC 2627377. PMID 16799733. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pmcentrez&artid=2627377.