With spring temperatures climbing higher, and with summer around the corner, I figure this is a good time to remind people about sun exposure, and using sunscreen. Too much sun exposure – or the use of tanning booths – is a risk factor for melanoma (one of the deadliest cancers) and of squamous cell carcinoma. This is especially true when one gets a sunburn. I forget where I read this statistic, but a sunburn doubles one’s risk of skin cancer (though before getting too panicky, it could mean going from a 1% chance to a 2% chance. Or 5% to 10%. I don’t want to quote exact numbers since I don’t have them handy and it probably also depends on how easily one gets a sunburn, location, skin tones, etc). This increase in risk is why I think doctors tend to encourage taking vitamin D supplements rather than suggesting sun exposure to get enough vitamin D.
However there are other reasons for getting some sunlight as one uses precautions to prevent sun burns:
- There might be other benefits to getting sun beyond its effects on vitamin D levels. Believe it or not it might help with blood pressure!! I’ll put a link at the end of this post.
- It might have effects on preventing other diseases as well, though it might be due to improved vitamin D levels and not some other effect light has on health.
- Getting outside and exercising can improve health (though any exercise, even if done indoors, such as exercising in a gym works too).
However to reduce the risk of skin cancer, there are several things one can do to minimize the risk:
- Use Sunscreen, at least SPF 15. And reapply if you’ve gone swimming, sweated a lot or if it’s been a few hours since you last applied sunscreen.
- Use wide brimmed hats as much as possible. Baseball caps don’t cover your necks or the back of your neck.
- Get sun early in the day, or later in the afternoon. In other words, don’t go out to get sun when the sunlight is at it’s strongest.
- Remember, even if you’re only in the sun for 15 minutes, you can get sun damage so sunscreen is important even if you’ll be in the sun for short periods
- wear long sleeves and long pants if possible.
Anyhow, Here is the link, and a couple of references for those who want to dig deeper into this topic.
Fernandes, M. R., & Barreto, W. D. R. (2017). Association between physical activity and vitamin D: A narrative literature review. Rev Assoc Med Bras (1992), 63(6), 550-556. doi:10.1590/1806-9282.63.06.550
Fleury, N., Geldenhuys, S., & Gorman, S. (2016). Sun Exposure and Its Effects on Human Health: Mechanisms through Which Sun Exposure Could Reduce the Risk of Developing Obesity and Cardiometabolic Dysfunction. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 13(10). doi:10.3390/ijerph13100999
Hoel, D. G., Berwick, M., de Gruijl, F. R., & Holick, M. F. (2016). The risks and benefits of sun exposure 2016. Dermatoendocrinol, 8(1), e1248325. doi:10.1080/19381980.2016.1248325
Langer-Gould, A., Lucas, R., Xiang, A. H., Chen, L. H., Wu, J., Gonzalez, E., . . . Barcellos, L. F. (2018). MS Sunshine Study: Sun Exposure But Not Vitamin D Is Associated with Multiple Sclerosis Risk in Blacks and Hispanics. Nutrients, 10(3). doi:10.3390/nu10030268
Rivas, M., Rojas, E., Araya, M. C., & Calaf, G. M. (2015). Ultraviolet light exposure, skin cancer risk and vitamin D production. Oncol Lett, 10(4), 2259-2264. doi:10.3892/ol.2015.3519
Santos Araújo, E. P. D., Queiroz, D. J. M., Neves, J. P. R., Lacerda, L. M., Gonçalves, M. D. C. R., & Carvalho, A. T. (2017). Prevalence of hypovitaminosis D and associated factors in adolescent students of a capital of northeastern Brazil. Nutr Hosp, 34(5), 1416-1423. doi:10.20960/nh.1097
Weller, R. B. (2016). Sunlight Has Cardiovascular Benefits Independently of Vitamin D. Blood Purif, 41(1-3), 130-134. doi:10.1159/000441266