Friday, August 10, 2007

The Vitamin D/sunshine Conversation

I found this article today, written by a Nurse Practitioner. Definitely not an end-all authority, but fairly reliable, I would think.

"Today many of us work in sealed buildings with glazed windows, and we wear sunblock and drive everywhere in cars instead of walking outdoors. Any sunblock with an SPF above 8 will block the UV rays necessary for vitamin D conversion."

TC had a good point - do we want to lower our risk of some cancers, but raise our risk of melanoma by spending time in the sun? I don't know the answer to that. I sometimes wonder if the skin cancer rates are not caused so much by the sun as they are caused by the constant barrage of chemicals we are exposed to. I know people who blame it on the parabens that preserve...pretty much every kind of skin care product from lotion to soap to makeup. Or even on dyes in similar products. Who knows if that's right or not since it hasn't been studied to my knowledge? People 200 years ago certainly didn't have sunblock and didn't die from skin cancer, and I find it hard to believe sun exposure has changed THAT much since then.

The article also says this:

"Our bodies are remarkably efficient. During the summer months, even as little as 15 minutes in the sun (without sunblock!) in the early morning and late afternoon is enough for most light-skinned individuals to create an ample supply of vitamin D. Skin with more pigment (melanin) may require up to 40 minutes.

But you could say we are trading our longer lifespan for an increased risk of skin cancers, so don’t throw away your sunblock! It’s important to protect your skin, particularly on your face and scalp, during the sun’s peak hours (11 AM – 2 PM) by using a lotion with SPF–15 or more, preferably PABA–free. Melanoma is a serious condition, and I’m not in favor of increasing your risk with unhealthy sun exposure.

This means you should not be out in the sun unprotected for more than 15 minutes, twice a day, early in the morning and late afternoon. If you begin to turn red before 15 minutes, cover up completely or go inside. It is never a healthy practice to burn your skin. It is also not safe to use tanning beds as a source of vitamin D. Please click here to learn more about tanning beds and vitamin D."

As in everything, the bottom line is going to be that we have to make our own choices and be responsible for our own health. We can only do our best with what we know. Any other thoughts?

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