Summer Fun In The Sun

May 15th, 2015

Summer is the time of year when individuals and families are playing at the park, cooking out in the backyard, swimming and boating, and just generally soaking up the sun.  The sun, much like food, has the potential to be harmful if not approached with balance and knowledge.  We want to be exposed to enough sunlight for our bodies to make Vitamin D but need to know how to do so safely.

The sun produces two main types of radiation we should be concerned with, UVA and UVB.  UVA radiation penetrates deeply into the skin.  It is less likely to cause a superficial sunburn, while causing premature wrinkles and DNA mutation.  It is the DNA mutation from the UVA radiation that is considered a strong contributing factor for skin cancer development.  UVB radiation from the sun affects the skin more superficially causing tanning (or sunburns) and vitamin D formation.  Vitamin D encourages the absorption and metabolism of calcium and helps maintain your immune system.

In June 2008 the Archives of Internal Medicine stated that “lower levels of vitamin D increases risk of dying from all causes.”  Regarding cancers, a vitamin D deficiency has been correlated with: breast, colorectal, brain, melanoma, stomach, kidney, ovarian, lung, pancreatic, leukemias, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and esophageal cancers.  Other illness that have been shown to be related to a vitamin D deficiency include: Diabetes, autoimmune diseases, mood disorders, autism, developmental delays, osteoporosis, immune function, gum disease & dental health, and cardiovascular disease.  We need to make sure we are getting enough Vitamin D on a regular basis and in the summer the sun can offer this protection.

It was in the late 1980’s that we were advised to limit sun exposure and began to use sunscreens regularly.  Since then cancer incidence has increased, including the prevalence of skin cancers.  The chemicals in most sunscreens are primarily blocking the UVB radiation to prevent sunburns (and hence Vitamin D formation) while doing very little to protect the skin from the UVA radiation.  To help increase vitamin D levels through sun exposure, we only need 15 to 20 minutes of mid-afternoon sun daily.

To protect ourselves and our families from sunburn, wrinkles, and DNA mutation from extended sun exposure use a sunblock that protects from both UVA and UVB radiation.  I recommend a block with zinc or titanium dioxide as the blocking agent.  This creates a physical block that inhibits sun radiation absorption at the skin.  Avoid products that contain: parabens, oxybenzone, and benzophenone-3 because of the potential allergic and hormone concerns from these chemicals.  Spray sunscreens with these ingredients pose a particular risk because of the potential for inhalation when applying them.  For extended periods of sun exposure away from water, tight knit clothing and hats are the ideal way to protect skin from solar radiation.

Also remember the protective benefit of naturally occurring phytonutrients from vegetables and fruits. The same phytonutrients that help to protect the plants from the UVA and UVB radiation will minimize the oxidative, inflammatory, and DNA damage at our cellular level.  So eat lots of fresh and local fruits and veggies this summer and enjoy the sun responsibly.

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Posted in Nutritional and Lifestyle Support/Modification |

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