Sunscreen or Sunshine

by DavalosMcCormack on January 23, 2008

Don’t you sometimes feel that all the things you are doing that are supposed to be good for you end up being bad for you? You change your diet to add more low-fat foods into it and then a study comes along saying that’s not good. You eat more tofu and a study comes along saying that’s not good either. Well, brace yourself, here’s more bad news. Apparently sunscreen is not as good for you as we thought.

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says sun exposure has benefits that are greater than avoiding it.

What does that mean? Well, sunscreen protects you from UVA/UVB rays that can cause skin cancer. But sun exposure is necessary to help your body synthesize Vitamin D. Sunscreen blocks that process, and the higher the level of SPF sunscreen you use, the more effectively it blocks it.

Why is that important? Well, Vitamin D is important in helping protect the body against a variety of internal cancers such as colon, lung, breast and prostate. The researchers compared cancer survival rates in a variety of countries, some of which were sunny (Australia) some less so (Norway) and found that skin cancer and some internal cancers were much less likely to be deadly in countries with sunny climates. So, they concluded that exposure to sun has more health benefits overall than protecting your skin against the sun.

“The anti-sun campaigns have gone too far,” says Johan Moan, the lead researcher and co-author of the study in an interview with Bloomberg News. “Increasing people’s sun exposure a little would give much more health benefits than adverse effects.”

So, given all that we’ve been told in the past how the hell are we supposed to know what to believe? Well, the good news is that you can get the sunshine you need to make Vitamin D, and still protect yourself from skin cancer. Your body needs only around 15 minutes of sunshine a day to create the Vitamin D it needs. So, go out for a while without sunscreen and once you have your “daily dose” slap on some SPF goop and you are good to go.

Of course none of this is very helpful if you live in Alaska in winter, where there is precious little sun and even if there were it’s minus 20 degrees outside and you are not going outside to get a tan. If that’s the case then you can get it from foods and supplements like cod liver oil; oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel; eggs and fortified milk, soy milk and orange juice.

Vitamin D is not just useful in helping reduce your risk of internal cancers, other studies have also shown it can help boost bone strength, improve your immune system, and possibly even reduce your risk of depression.

So now you can have your day in the sun, or at least 15 minutes, and not feel guilty about it. So let the sunshine in!

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