This USA Today article covers both sides in the ongoing debate over whether sun exposure is healthy or harmful.

Contradictory Messages

At the same time as new studies suggest that vitamin D can reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer, a class-action lawsuit has been filed against sunscreen makers on the grounds that they do not sufficiently protect consumers from skin cancer. The apparently contradictory messages about sunlight have confused many.

Extensive Vs. Brief ExposureStephen Stone, president of the American Academy of Dermatology, suggests that very restricted exposure to sunlight may be beneficial, but extensive, unprotected sun exposure can cause cancer and damage the skin. Michael Holick, of Boston University, recommends that people briefly expose their faces and arms to the sun several times a week, in order to obtain vitamin D. He does not, however, recommend tanning.

USA Today May 8, 2006

Dr. Mercola's Comment:With the weather warming up so has the debate over the need for daily sunshine exposure, your most natural source for vitamin D. This interesting feature in USA Today covers both sides of the debate, with comments on the pro-sunshine side from the leading expert in vitamin D, Dr. Michael Holick.

Dr. Holick reports his position on sunshine (which mirrors mine in many respects). Unfortunately, his position is frequentlymisunderstood. That's because, to some, getting the right amount of sunshine every day gives people an excuse to use, or profit from, tanning salons.While many conventional medical "experts" argue you need to stay out of the sun to avoid cancer, newer evidence questions this assertion. Although excessive sun can trigger melanoma, the primary cause appears to be a distortion of the omega-6:3 fat ratio. So sunlight is really not the primary cause of skin cancer.

On the other hand, not enough sun will significantly increase your risk of deadly cancers like breast and prostate. In fact, as many as 50,000 people every year die in the United States from cancerfrom not receiving enough sun. This is due to low vitamin D levels.

Optimizing your sun exposure and levels of vitamin D may, indeed, be one of the most important physical steps you can take in support of your long-term health. Some of the benefits of vitamin D include:

  • Protection against multiple sclerosis (MS) and other autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.It is important that anyone with these diseases should regularly have their levels checked to make sure they are optimum.
  • Prevention and treatment of diabetes, type1 and type 2.
  • Signaling colon, breast and prostate cells to stop growing and eventually succumb to programmed cell death.
  • So, be sure and get outside regularlyas that is the safest and least expensive way to increase your vitamin D levels. Take some time for yourself and work up to the point where you get one hour of sun on your skin every day it is possible.

    I can assure you that I consider this an essential part of my personal Total Health Program and seek to get in to work around 4-5a.m. so I can leave early and spend time out in the sunshine.

    If you are exercising in the sun like I do and sweat quite a bit, please understand that the vitamin D is oil-soluble. So, you won't want to shower immediately after being in the sun, as the vitamin D is formed in your skin and can be easily washed off. So cool down after you work out and let your body absorb the vitamin D you produce in your skin after sun exposure.

    In nearly every circumstance, getting your vitamin D by exposing your body to UV light from the sun is the best option. When doing so, however, there are two extremely important points to remember:

    1.Stay away from tanning beds, as they increase your risk of cancer.

    2. Avoid staying in the sun long enough to burn your skin. At the beginning of the season, limit your exposure to perhaps as little as five to 10 minutes a day. Progressively increase your time in the sun so that in a few weeks, you will be able to have normal sun exposure with little risk of skin cancer.

    By the way, should you need to be out in the sun for a very long stretch of time, commercial sunscreens aren't the answer, as they are nothing more than poisonous concoctions loaded with harmful chemicals. There are some safe ones out there but you have to be careful. Most of the sun blocks in health food stores tend to be safe.

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