The sun: a good friend to see moderately!

With this beautiful summer, we all want to find a good spot to sunbathing ! But there are various questions about the sun : On one hand, it helps vitamin D synthesis but on the other hand, it promotes skin cancers. So is it a friend or not?

Like always, there is not a clear-cut answer to this question. We need the sun but we should respect some simple rules to avoid health problems: We have to be balanced in our approach.

Sun and vitamin D synthesis.

Vitamin D was discovered when scientists led researches about rickets. It is a disease of growing bone specific to children and adolescents due to deficiency or impaired metabolism of vitamin D.

Also called calciferol, vitamin D is both a vitamin and a prohormone; it is vital for the health of bones and teeth, as it plays an essential role in the metabolism of calcium in the body. In fact, no matter how much calcium is consumed in the diet or through supplements, it is only absorbed with sufficient quantities of vitamin D. Vitamin D regulates the level of calcium in the blood by improving calcium absorption in the intestine while at the same time minimizing the elimination of calcium in the urine. It also plays a part in mineralizing and demineralizing bones of calcium, depending on the needs of the body.

As we have just seen, vitamin D deficiency results in rickets when we are young. During adulthood, symptoms are quite different because growth period is over : bone pain, deformation and sometimes severely broken bones may happen.

So, it is very important for all of us to get enough vitamin D ; if not, our body will suffer damages that could have lifelong after-effects.

Vitamin D is a special vitamin because there are two different ways to get it : exogenous and endogenous sources.
Exogenous ones means vitamin D from food. During normal digestion, we can absorb vitamin D. This ability decreases with certain intestinal diseases such as inflammatory ones.
Some examples of vitamin D-rich food are fish livers such as cod liver, fish (salmon, sardines,) and egg yolk. There is a small amount of vitamin D in butter.
However, food provides only 20% of our vitamin D: the major source is endogenous: Our body can synthesize vitamin D from cholesterol by sunlight. So, we need the sun and its UV-B rays to provide us the vitamin D we need to live and to be healthy. A minimal solar exposure is necessary.
There are no official recommendations about how long we should have sun exposure: it depends on where we happen to live, season, time of the day and skin’s natural pigmentation.
It seems that we need only a 15 minutes sun exposure everyday (and at least 3 times a week).

Sun and skin cancer

We all need sun to synthesize vitamin D but we have to be careful because exposure to solar radiation is related to the risk of developing serious medical conditions such as skin cancers and particularly melanoma.

Certain rules should be observed to protect yourself and your family from developing such a serious disease:
·    Avoid sun exposure between 11 am and 4 pm.
·    Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses
·    Generously apply sunscreen to all exposed skin, even on cloudy days.

These simple rules are for everybody. However, we have to be very careful with children because some studies have shown that the risk of melanoma increases with sun exposure during childhood and incidence of sunburn.

Melanoma can be aggressive and a poor prognosis.

Do not forget to see a dermatologist regularly so that he can check if everything is fine. Skin cancer screening is very important especially if you are at risk.

As a conclusion we can say that sun is like a friend but we should not see him too many times! Be aware!

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