Sun exposure: The Good, the bad and the ugly

We all love the sun and we should. Exposure to sunlight allows our body to produce its own vitamin D. However, your body only needs 5-15 minutes, 2-3 times per week to be able to produce enough vitamin D, so you can skip this excuse for laying out to tan. It is also believed that sunlight can help increase the serotonin levels in the body, which can elevate your mood and increase focus. The decrease in sulight during the winter months causes many people to suffer from SAD or seasonal affective disorder. So, it is safe to say the sunlight plays a vital role in overall happiness.

The bad news is our bodies can't take straight sunlight for a long period of time. Many of us get sunburns as proof of this. A sunburn is an inflammatory response to ultraviolet radiation DAMAGE. For those of you with the "good melanin," you probably won't have a sunburn as evidence of your skin damage, but a tan is visible sun damage. A tan is just not painful like a sunburn, but they are both cellular damage. Cellular damage can lead to skin cancer. Don't let the clouds fool you either, 80% of the sun's UV rays penetrate clouds, so yes you still need SPF when it is cloudy outside.

The ugly truth is the sun's UV rays and the UV light used in TANNING BEDS are the 2 main causes of skin cancer. Repeated sunburns increase your risk for skin cancer and just one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescents more than double your chances of developing melanoma later in life. 1 out of 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70. For those of you who don't burn, because you have that nice dark skin, you are indeed less likely to get skin cancer. Don't let that fool you. Early detection is key and because your skin is dark it makes early detection hard, so the death rate is higher among darker-skinned individuals. So, the bottom line, no matter how much melanin you have, always wear at least a 15 SPF all day, every day, and protect the beautiful skin you're in.



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