Many of us have heard the term, "Everything in moderation." Our parents used it before us, as did their parents before them. But the concept isn't always true. When it comes to sun exposure, you're not likely to find anyone who can confidently recommend a safe amount of sun.
Sunlight has its benefits. When you walk outside in the sunshine, vitamin D is produced within your body. Vitamin D is an important nutrient that helps your body absorb calcium, keeps your bones strong and maintains overall health. Deficiencies can lead to a number of health issues. Because the vitamin isn't present in many foods, most people rely on the sun to induce synthesis of vitamin D. The important thing to remember is that it takes minimal exposure to do so. Less than a half hour twice a week is all it takes to ensure you've got enough vitamin D [source: Office of Dietary Supplements].
Even so, it's incredibly important to limit your exposure to the sun. While sunlight will help keep your levels of vitamin D adequate, you might be putting your body at risk by exposing it at all.
While there are options for keeping your vitamin levels regulated, including diets or supplements, there is no definite amount of sun exposure defined as safe. And too much sun can lead to dangerous risks, including skin cancer. In fact, in the past few decades, skin cancer rates in the United States have been climbing steadily. Today, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer found in the United States [source: Center for Disease Control].
Although there is no definitive answer regarding how much sun exposure is safe, there are precautions you can take. Avoid the sun during the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when UVA radiation levels are at their highest. Be sure to wear sunscreen and cover as much skin as possible with protective clothing. It's also a good idea to avoid tanning beds [source: Glanz].
Knowing this, it's in your best interest to take preventive measure before going into the sun and looking into alternative methods of vitamin D supplementation.
Check out the links on the last page for more information.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Centers for Disease Control. "Basic Information About Skin Cancer." Ceneter for Disease Control and Prevention. June 12, 2009. (Aug. 18, 2009). http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/
- Glanz, Karen, Mona Saraiya and Howell Welchsler. "Guidelines for School Programs to Prevent Skin Cancer." Center for Disease Control and Prevention. April 11, 2002. (Aug. 19, 2009) http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5104a1.htm
- Office of Dietary Supplements. "Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D." National Institute of Health. (Aug. 19, 2009) http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitamind.asp
- The Skin Cancer Foundation. "Skin Cancer Facts." (Aug. 14, 2009)http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-facts/