We have all heard of the dangers behind sun tanning and the importance of wearing sunscreen, but how true are they?
Does sun exposure cause skin cancer? The answer is no! Sun exposure by itself does not cause skin cancer. Sunlight, when combined with good nutritional status, actually prevents cancer. Good nutritional status is obtained in part through antioxidants. Common antioxidants include vitamins A, E, C and Selenium. Having adequate levels of antioxidants may also reduce the likelihood of sun burning with sun exposure.
Sunlight also stimulates our body to produce Vitamin D, which is essential for optimal health. Adequate Vitamin D levels have resulted in a 78% reduction in four out of five major cancers, including brain, breast, bone, prostate and liver cancers. Skin cancer is a definite concern, but should we avoid the sun entirely? New research sheds light on the fact that avoiding the sun at mid-day increases the risk of cancer.
Getting about 2,000 IU to 4,000 IU a day of Vitamin D can help you to reduce your cancer risk by up to 50 percent! However, most people only get 250 - 300 IU per day from their diet, so sunshine is essential. In the winter months, a Vitamin D supplement (cholecalciferol) can be used. Cholecalciferol is found naturally in foods like eggs, organ meats, animal fat and fish.
The optimal time to be in the sun for Vitamin D production is as close to the solar noon as possible, specifically between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM. When the sun goes down towards the horizon, the UVB (290 - 315 nanometer wavelength) light, AKA the “Vitamin D Producer”, is filtered out much more than UVA (320 - 400 nanometer) light. UVA is highly correlated with melanoma. Cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM) is the most serious form of skin cancer, accounting for about three-quarters of all skin cancer deaths. For Caucasians or other light complected people, approximately 20 minutes per day of sunlight is needed, and 6 - 10 times that amount is needed for darker complexions. A large area of the body needs to be exposed — just exposing the hands and face is insufficient.
With the newest research findings, it no longer seems appropriate to avoid midday sun nor to excessively wear sunscreen. With that said, we all need to understand our personal threshold for obtaining a sunburn. Appropriate measures should be exercised which include using sunscreen and avoidance of prolonged sun exposure. Both UVA and UVB can cause tanning and burning, but UVA penetrates your skin more deeply than UVB, and is thought to be the major culprit of photo-aging, wrinkling and skin cancer development.