The Beauty and The Beast of Sun Exposure

Once again, it is time to remind ourselves that exposure to sun’s rays can be healthy and harmful. They can make us look good and make us feel healthy. They can also damage our skin and can even kill us. There are more than 25 human disorders that are either caused by or aggravated by exposure of the skin to sunlight. But exposure to sunlight is also the most potent and natural way to manufacture vitamin D in our body.

Now, did you ever think that exposure to sunlight can be lethal?

When the skin is exposed to ultraviolet radiation, there is immediate increase in the number of melanocytes and production of melanin pigment. This results in tanning. The amount of melanin produced is genetically determined. That is why some people burn easily without tanning. Melanin also acts as a filter to decrease the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays to the dermis.

The reason people want to tan is to look like me – just kidding! The real reason is they want to look good. They think tanning is healthy. Somehow a tanned person looks healthier if it is not overdone. That is if you haven’t baked yourself.

But the beastly thing is melanoma arises from melanocytes, the very cells which give us a false sense of looking good. Melanoma is a skin cancer if not treated early can be lethal. The death rate from melanoma continues to rise about two per cent annually.

There are two other skin cancers which do not kill but can cause local disfigurement if not treated. These are: basal cell and squamous cell cancers. The risk of skin cancer is increased in individuals who spend too much time outdoors; children who have had episodic sunburn, and if there is a family or personal history of skin cancer (especially melanoma).

What is interesting is, despite having a good understanding of the relation between overexposure to the sun and skin cancer, 81per cent of North Americans still think they look good after being in the sun.

There are indeed benefits to exposing your skin to the sunrays in moderation before 10 a.m. and after four in the afternoon. When the skin is exposed to sun’s ultraviolet rays the skin makes vitamin D, which is rapidly absorbed in the blood and can be stored for several months, mostly in the blood and fat tissue.

We have always known vitamin D is needed for good health and strong bones and teeth. In the last few months, several reports have appeared which advance the case for universal intake of vitamin D on a daily basis to prevent certain types of cancer.

Increased intake of vitamin D helps prevent falls in the elderly. A report in the journal Nutrition Reviews suggests that adults should daily take 2,000 IU of vitamin D to help prevent some cancers. The Canadian Cancer Society is now recommended taking 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily as a cancer prevention step. Experts suggest taking supplements of no more than 2,000 IU per day.

Have you started taking vitamin D yet?

If not, then you need to spend some time out in the sun for your body to manufacture enough vitamin D to last you through the winter. But care and moderation is required. Avoid prolonged exposure, wear protective clothing, and use a sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher. To protect the eyes wear good quality sunglasses which block ultraviolet rays.

So, enjoy the summer carefully, if and when it arrives.

Start reading the preview of my book A Doctor's Journey for free on Amazon. Available on Kindle for $2.99!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *