For year, especially those of us with fair skin, have been warned that we must wear SPF-50 sun screen, a large hat and sunglasses so that not one square inch of our bodies are subjected to rays of sun. I have observed mothers with equal obsession that their children not set one toe outdoors without at least an SPF 30 sunblock.
Certainly, these precautions have seemed appropriate, considering the incidents of various skin cancers. However, I just read an article in the June/July issue of Town and Country giving a different perspective. The author, Danielle Stein, was diagnosed with stage four melanoma right after her 19th birthday. Although it turned out to be an incorrect diagnosis, she was diligent in making sure her skin was totally shielded from the sun. Several years later she began having symptoms that doctors were not able to diagnose. She sought advice from Dr. Frank Lipman, a Manhattan-based physician who has many well-known patients, and practices integrative medicine. He determined that her vitamin D level was unacceptably low and that was the cause of her symptoms.
We all know that exposure to the sun gives us vitamin D but where is the balance in sun exposure to replenish our vitamin D and not enough exposure to risk skin cancer? It is, indeed a puzzle. Ms. Stein’s journey to good health uncovered many new studies on the effects of sun exposure. Experts on vitamin D, according to the article, estimate that half the American population fail to meet the minimum levels of vitamin D. The author also said that a mere 10 minutes in the sun three times a week without sunblock will provide a weekly dose of 20,000 to 30,000 IU of vitamin D.
Some of the benefits of vitamin D are bone health, which helps prevent rickets and osteoporosis. Dr. Michael Holick and his team of doctors of Boston University Medical Center determined that vitamin D introduced to active prostate cancer completely arrested the cancer growth.
Further studies show that vitamin D acts more like a hormone than a vitamin. Illnesses ranging from cancers to inflammatory diseases and heart attacks and strokes appear to be by reduced by adequate vitamin D levels.
The article is quite compelling and I encourage any of you to read it or do your own research. We obviously want to protect our skin from the risk of skin cancer. On the other hand, as new studies revel more updated information, we would be well advised to adjust our behavior accordingly.
For me, I am following the 10 minutes three times a week rule. Since my skin is very fair, that should achieve the balance of adequate vitamin D levels without risking skin cancer.
Enjoy the summer sun and be safe!