Skin cancer rates are increasing and so is a push in sun protective measures, such as sunscreen use and staying out of the sun. But can staying out of the sun cause harm? According to some experts, these sun protective measures have contributed to an increase in Vitamin D deficiency in Americans. And why would a Vitamin D deficiency matter? Vitamin D is important for strong bones as well as helping out the body with other functions including the immune system, muscle functions, cardiovascular health and brain development. It has also been shown to provide anti-cancer effects.
The main source of Vitamin D is sunlight and small amounts can be found in foods as well as supplements. Vitamin D is unique because your body can make its own Vitamin D unlike many other vitamins. If bare skin is exposed to sunlight (UVB rays), a number of chemical processes occur to change it for use in your body. Depending on where you live, the time of day and your skin type, a few minutes to 30 minutes a day could help boost Vitamin D levels and, thus, overall health.
There is a dilemma among many doctors and nutritionists. Do you risk skin cancer for Vitamin D? It may not be as dramatic as that question, but many experts vary on the best course to receive Vitamin D. One suggestion is to expose skin, without sunscreen, to the sun for half the time it would take skin to turn pink, then return to the shade and use sun protective clothing and sunscreen. Another is to take supplements, in addition to eating Vitamin D rich foods like salmon and eggs, to maintain a healthy level of Vitamin D.