Written by Lorel Studer
The sun is here and so is UV Safety Month! If you’re like me, every year I ache for the days when we can live outside. I crave the sun, the warm (not hot) weather, and the summertime activities. I know in my house, we love to spend time on our deck, listening to music with a few adult beverages, and I don’t think we are alone.
The combination of the sun and warm weather lifts our spirits and gets us motivated and active. Ever wonder exactly how being closer to the sun help us? Can it hurt us?
How much sun is too much? Sunlight and the ultraviolet (UV) B radiation it contains can help to convert a pre-vitamin D molecule into the more fortified vitamin D3. Our bodies use vitamin D3 to help keep us healthy in a lot of ways. In
an article in Dermato-Endocrinology, Wacker and Holick state that physicians and scientists have been able to determine that vitamin D3 can reduce the risk of many types of deadly cancers (bladder, breast, cervical, colon, endometrial, esophageal, gastric, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, rectal, renal and vulvar cancer as well as Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma) and even reduce the risk of autoimmune diseases and improve bone health (Wacker & Holick, 2013). Soak it up!
On the other hand, skin cancers are associated with too much exposure to UV rays. So how much is too much? But what is enough? In other words, what’s the sunny sweet spot?
Well, it seems that it depends on who you ask and where you live.
The closer you live to the equator, the more exposure you get to the sun and its radiation. Most light-skinned individuals, like me, have had a sunburn, maybe even sun poisoning, that causes skin irritation, discomfort/pain, blisters, and skin sloughing. (Raise your hand if you love peeling dead skin.) Sunburns
are uncomfortable and last days. But what about damage beyond a few days? Skin cancer has long been associated with overexposure to the sun. And since the 1970s when we first heard that the ozone layer was damaged and wasn’t protecting us the way it used to, overexposure can happen quicker. The American College of Dermatology recommends daily use of sunscreen to combat any overexposure to
the sun to reduce the risk of skin cancers.
In an online article, Ultraviolet Radiation, the World Health Organization (WHO), states that “globally in 2020, over 1.5 million cases of skin cancer were diagnosed and over 120,000 skin-cancer-associated deaths were reported” (WHO, 2022). Anyone rethinking their love of peeling skin? But wait, will that affect how the sun’s rays help reduce the risk of all the other cancers?
The answer is now, “Nope, highly unlikely, but more investigation would be beneficial” (British College of Dermatology, 2019). Skin cancer is caused by UVR and Vitamin D and its benefits are affected by UVB. So soak it up, but avoid the burn and use sunblock, UV-protected clothes and stay in the shade during the hot afternoon hours. Sounds like moderation and common sense are, again, the keys to prevention.