The Sun and Skin Cancer Prevention
The sun is extremely important to our existence. All life ultimately depends on the sun’s interaction with the earth. The sun is important for human health as well, both directly and indirectly. However, like any good thing, it is possible to overdo sun exposure.
What does sunlight do for me?
The sun is the most effective means of providing vitamin D for our bodies. Sunlight also helps to modify neurotransmitters in the brain, which regulate our wake/sleep cycle. Sunlight can also have a direct effect on our mood, e.g., with seasonal affective disorder.
What does vitamin D do for me?
Vitamin D is important for calcium metabolism, bone health, brain function, balance, cancer prevention, and heart disease prevention.
How much sunlight do I need?
The amount of sunlight needed is dependent on the time of year, how much skin is exposed, and the shade of our skin. Light-skinned people only need about ten minutes of bright sunlight exposure to the head, arms and legs and they will receive more than their daily dose of vitamin D. Darker skinned people may need up to ten times as much sun exposure to receive the same dose of vitamin D. During the winter months, the sun is not as direct, and the length of time must be longer. For this reason, vitamin D deficiency is very common in our area, particularly during the winter months.
How much is too much sunlight?
Fair skinned people must be careful to avoid excessive sun exposure, particularly early in the summer when the days are long, but the skin is pale after the winter months. Start out slow with sun exposure. After 20 minutes, cover the skin with clothing, a sunblock, or a wide hat. Excessive sun exposure will increase the likelihood of developing skin cancer.
What do skin cancers look like?
The most common skin cancers look like a sore on the skin that won’t heal. Any time a skin spot grows, changes color, won’t heal or has an irregular shape, it is best to have it checked. Dark skin spots can also be cancer, so watch for sudden change in size, color, shape, etc. These changes warrant close watchfulness and perhaps biopsy.
Your skin is definitely worth protecting, and sunlight’s healing properties, when used in the appropriate amounts, can prevent disease and improve the health of you and your family.