A Response to “A Case For Sunshine”

Attractive strong athlete running along the sea at eveningMen’s Fitness Magazine recently published an article debating the science and knowledge of sun exposure in relation to Vitamin D levels. In the article it states that people are led to believe that the only way to step outside is by using sunscreen, and that it is causing a deficiency in Vitamin D levels. This supposed deficiency is said to lead to poor health in relation to weakening of bones, lower sperm count, lower level of endorphin release, and less hunger hormone regulation.

“We don’t really know how much is ‘healthy’, and how much is too much,” states Dr. Adam Mamelak, a board certified Dermatologist and Mohs Micrographic surgeon in Austin, Texas. While it is true that there may be some potential benefits to the unprotected sun exposure, there are also some significant risks, including skin cancers. “Optimal sun exposure,” a term Dr. Mamelak believes would probably be considered heresy amongst many dermatologists, “is actually a very difficult thing to determine. Really, the dose would be dependent on so many things: weather, season, time of day, latitude, elevation, cloud coverage, time of year. With so many variables, how can we actually be sure how much sun you’re getting?” Certain states have higher average UV indexes, including Texas, Florida, California, and Arizona. Fifteen minutes outside in the midday in Austin is not the same sun as fifteen minutes in Minnesota or Maine.

Recent studies have shown that a modest amount of unprotected sun, about 10-15 minutes on the back of the hands three times a week, can give you a sufficient amount of Vitamin D. “Most individuals that work inside have insufficient Vitamin D levels, however there is a difference between insufficiency and deficiency,” notes Dr. Mamelak. Many of the associations between lack of Vitamin D and health problems involve individuals who are who are drastically deficient, and not those who are only slightly below normal levels. Dr. Mamelak wholeheartedly agrees that Vitamin D is important to health, noting that it is great for protecting against cancer, heart disease, neurological activities, and bone health, but that there are even pills that can help with achieving therapeutic levels in the body.

Sunscreen has the ability to shield UV rays when used correctly, but who uses it the way they’re supposed to? “The recommended dose of sunscreen is to use a 1 oz serving to cover the entire body, with reapplications around every two hours,” notes Dr. Mamelak. “Most sunscreen bottles contain 3 to 8 oz of sunscreen. That means if people are going through their sunscreen correctly, they are going through about a bottle a week.” Not many people can claim to use  sunscreen this extensively and consistently. “We all get caught out unexpectedly.  Sitting in traffic with the window open for 10 minutes longer than we thought. Finding their are no seats left in the shaded area at lunch. People are still getting sunburns. The rays still get through.”

The article mentions “giving the sun some credit”, which is a very important thing to do. The effects of the sun are important to note, good and bad, but staying clear of raising your chances of skin cancer should be a main concern for everyone.

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