Sunlight Exposure: A Complicated Balancing Act

Conflicting information is abundant in the medical community when it comes to exposure to sunlight. With skin cancer rates on the rise, we begin to see more and more articles warning us to avoid the sun. On the other hand, a noticeable trend in Vitamin D deficiencies forces us back outside the door. So where is the happy medium?

Unfortunately, there is no cut and dried answer to this question. Many individual factors contribute to a healthy balance such as:

Skin coloring: Studies have shown a correlation of higher cancer rates in dark skinned people. Research has suggested the cause for this phenomenon to be that the darker the skin, the more sunlight is required to adequately synthesize Vitamin D.

Geographic location: Based on a study conducted in the United States, reproductive and digestive system cancer rates in the southwest regions were half that of those in New England although the diet showed little variation between both regions.

Seasonal Variances: UVB rays (the ultraviolet light which is synthesized into Vitamin D by the skin through sun exposure) is much more prevalent in the northern hemisphere during the summer and less so in winter. In some regions, the ability to synthesize Vitamin D through sunlight is almost non-existent and requires additional supplements to maintain a healthy level of Vitamin D in the system.

A generally recognized rule of thumb for adequate sun exposure is between 5 and 30min of unprotected sun exposure 2-3 times a week. Based on the variance factors listed above, individuals may be on the high or low end of those estimates.

Those unable to get the minimum amount of sunlight exposure must supplement Vitamin D through other sources such as foods rich in Vitamin D, i.e. tuna or salmon, fortified milk and breakfast cereals which provide decent levels of the nutrient. Dietary supplements may also be necessary to maintain minimum Vitamin D levels. Pills and fish oil soft gels work well in this capacity.

Some people, either through recreational or career activities are forced into excessive sun exposure. As too much sun can cause skin cancer, the sunscreen industry has exploded in recent years. However, most commercial sunscreen products are unhealthy and even potentially toxic to the skin. There are better alternatives to store bought sun block products including coconut oil, helichrysum essential oil, Aloe Vera and chamomile oil. For more information on sunscreens that work, have a read of a recent article titled: The Top 5 Best Natural Sunscreens.

Like many things in life, sunlight should be taken in moderation to best take advantage of its health benefits while avoiding its risks.

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