Should you be worried about sun exposure. How much is too much?
Sun Exposure and Skin Cancer
Spending too much time in the sun gives you wrinkles and makes you more likely to get skin cancer.
There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun (all year long, and in any weather) or tanning beds is linked to all of them.
Almost all skin cancers — 95% — are basal cell and squamous cell cancers. Also called non-melanoma skin cancers, they are highly curable when treated early.
Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. It starts in skin pigment cells called melanocytes.
Early treatment greatly improves your chances of beating it.
Left untreated, it can spread to other parts of your body and become hard to control.
Anyone can get skin cancer. The people mostly likely to get it are those with:
Darker-skinned people can also get any type of skin cancer, although it’s less likely for them than for pale-skinned people.
You’re also at risk if:
Read More: Sun Exposure and Skin Cancer
Winter sun exposure is a totally different story.
Why You Should Care About Winter Sun Exposure | Rewire
So, you’ve decided to head outside this winter, maybe to beat the winter blues. Whether you’re trying a new activity or taking a cruise where the sun doesn’t stop shining, getting some extra rays during bleary months can be a vitamin D and morale booster.
However, if you don’t take proper precautions, you might also increase your risk of experiencing skin cancer or other negative effects from sun exposure. Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean the sun’s rays can’t damage your skin.
“Melanoma is a cancer that is especially prevalent” in young people, said June Robinson, a research professor of dermatology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
We might see ourselves as more aware of the risks of sun exposure than our parents or grandparents were, but “if young adults are more aware of the risks of sun exposure, they are not taking steps to protect themselves,” Robinson said.
It’s easy to skimp on sun protection during colder months, but winter sun actually poses its own unique risks. We need to “be aware of UV reflection from snow and ice, Robinson said. “The UV rays bounce off the snow and come under a hat to burn the side of the neck,” for example.
“(Melanoma) is often associated with those who engage in an outdoor lifestyle,” she said. “In fact, melanoma is the only cancer where physical activity is associated with cancer risk. … This is probably due to unprotected sun exposure. …
“People trying to be healthy by doing all they can for heart health may unknowingly put themselves at risk for melanoma.”
Worry-free sun exposure. Tips for you.
How to Enjoy the Sun Without Worrying About Cancer – Verily
Skin cancer is part of my family history. My uncle died of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, when I was nine months old. He was in his early thirties, younger than I am now. Since childhood, I’ve been obsessed with sun safety. For many years, I made it a goal to avoid the sun as much as possible.
When I was diagnosed with a severe vitamin D deficiency several years ago, I realized I was just going from one extreme to another. As important as it was to protect myself from cancer, I wasn’t doing myself any favors by avoiding the sun entirely. Instead of being sun averse, I needed to learn how to be sun smart.
A study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine in March 2016 included a shocking conclusion: “Nonsmokers who avoided sun exposure had a life expectancy similar to smokers in the highest sun exposure group, indicating that avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor for death of a similar magnitude as smoking.” That’s right. This study suggests that avoiding the sun entirely can be as risky for your health as smoking.
Not everyone is entirely on board with these results. “I would not agree with [the conclusion of this study] totally, but I think a little bit of sun is important—especially when it comes to feeling happy, healthy, and having a good sense of well-being,” says Dr. Charles Crutchfield, a board certified dermatologist in Minnesota.
Overexposure to sun leads to risk factors like skin cancer, but underexposure is not the answer. In part, this is because of vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin.” Proper vitamin D absorption helps keep teeth and bones healthy. But only a few foods contain vitamin D, and typically in small amounts that aren’t sufficient for your health. The Vitamin D Council links a lack of vitamin D to conditions like cancer, asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s Disease.
Unrepaired damage to skin cells through ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds can lead to skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime. In the past 30 years, more people have had skin cancer than breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancers combined. Those are some scary statistics—enough to send any level-headed person indoors.
But, again, being so afraid of the sun that you avoid it entirely is not the solution. While the consequences of overexposure to the sun are scary, the benefits of limited sun exposure are plentiful. Numerous scientific studies indicate it can facilitate better mood, deeper sleep, reduced risk of some cancers, stronger bones, and lower blood pressure and risk of heart attack and stroke. Sunshine triggers the release of serotonin and endorphins, making it a mood booster on par with exercise. Spending time in the sun gets you in touch with your circadian rhythm, which helps regulate sleep. And vitamin D absorption can lead to stronger bones and reduced risk of some cancers, including colorectal, prostate, and breast cancer, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). In many ways, sunshine is the best medicine.
Like so many things in life, moderation is key. If one glass of red wine is good, that doesn’t mean a bottle of wine is better. The same goes for sun exposure. Getting 10-20 minutes in the sun without sunscreen is an ideal way to get the benefits of sunshine without going overboard. The Vitamin D Council recommends taking vitamin D supplements on days when your body can’t get full sun exposure: “For most people on the Monday–Friday indoor work schedule, that means taking a supplement 5–6 days a week and getting sun exposure on a day or two during the weekend.”
The Sun Safety Alliance notes that the sun’s UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This means you have a higher likelihood of getting sunburned or increasing your risk of skin cancer if you’re exposed to sunlight during those hours. The alliance suggests this rule: When your shadow is short, seek shade.
Affiliate links appear in this post where we will earn some commissions without any additional cost should you decide to make a purchase. Please find disclosure for details.