Although the importance of vitamin D has long been accepted in the older, more traditional areas of health-care, it has recently made headlines in allopathic medical circles and is being touted as one of our most essential health-building hormones. Vitamin D (although called a vitamin it is, in fact, a hormone) cannot be manufactured by the body without exposure to ultraviolet rays, which are supplied by the sun. This makes it vital for you to spend time outdoors on a daily basis.
Cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM) is the most serious form of skin cancer, accounting for about three-quarters of all skin cancer deaths.
New research now supports that while avoiding the sun at mid-day will decrease your risk of painful sunburn it will actually increase your cancer risk.
What! We’ve always been told to be indoors between those hours, so how is it possible that this increases cancer risks?
Apparently, the reason for this advice is this. When the sun moves towards the horizon (that is, outside of the noon-day hours), UVA rays are stronger (or less filtered out) than UVB rays. UVA is correlated to melanoma, whereas UVB rays are the ones that help produce vitamin D. It’s at noon that UVB is at its strongest.
Both UVA and UVB can cause tanning and burning, although UVB does so far more rapidly – so be cautious when spending time in the sun over noon. UVA, however, penetrates your skin more deeply than UVB, and is thought to be a much more important factor in photo-aging, wrinkles and skin cancers.
Making sure you get enough vitamin D can help reduce your risk of cancer by up to 50% (some research suggests 30% of cancer deaths in America could be prevented with higher levels of vitamin D). It is relatively easy in this country to ensure exposure to adequate amounts of sunshine, even in winter. However, a number of things need to be considered.
How to expose yourself beneficially
Firstly, at least 40% of the skin’s surface area must be exposed, in order for vitamin D to be absorbed. Secondly, you should expose your skin gradually and aim to build up to 60-120 minutes out in the sun, depending on your skin colour (the fairer, the less sun needed). Thirdly, don’t use block-out or commercial suntan lotions on your skin, as these are loaded with chemicals and – in any event – defeat the purpose of sun exposure.
Last, but not least, don’t wash your skin with soap within 24 hours of being in the sun as this will wash off the cholesterol, which is on the skin’s surface in order to ‘pull’ UVB into the skin to activate it into Vit D. In any event, you shouldn’t do this because it washes off your natural oils and dries the skin out; just wash your smelly bits with soap and rinse the rest of your skin with water. Finally, bear in mind that the new recommendation for optimal vitamin D production is to be in the sun between 10:00am & 2:00pm. Happy tanning!