Sunlight is both good and bad for the skin. A double edged sword you might say. Today there is a lot of emphasis on the negative aspects of sun exposure; the result of this has been that many people are scared of sun exposure. We are advised to slather our selves and our children in sun block, to avoid the mid day rays, not to get burned, to use fake tan, that the sun is ageing…… and so on. So what is fact and what is fiction here?
Sun exposure – the facts
The fact is that our bodies need sunlight in order to synthesise vitamin D. Dietary vitamin D makes up only a small portion of what we need. Vitamin D shortage is bad, in fact it is really bad, and is thought to contribute to cancers and diabetes. Many people today are deficient in this essential vitamin without even realising. Lack of vitamin D can lead to Rickets in children. Rickets was thought to be mostly a disease of the past, but no it is here in the 21’st century in the UK and cases have been found amongst middle class families even in the South of England which has a higher amount of sunshine than other areas of the UK. The reason for the resurgence of rickets seems to be the modern sun phobia which has led parents to slather sun block on their children if they as much as think about going outside to play. Also thought to be to blame is the fact that kids now spend more time indoors these days on computer games and such like.
UV radiation in sunlight is responsible for our body synthesising vitamin D, but it is also responsible for skin cancers and melanoma. So clearly the key is to get enough sunlight to create vitamin D but not too much as to cause cancerous changes in the skin.
Skin cancers fall into two distinct groups. Melanoma and non melanoma skin cancer
Melanoma is a very fast growing cancer affecting the melanocytes (melanin pigment cells) and which metastasises (spreads) very quickly and easily to other organs in the body. The prognosis for melanoma is very poor.
Non melanoma skin cancer is usually not life threatening if treated. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell carcinoma (BCC) are the two most common non melanoma cancers.
As far as sun exposure goes, it is the non melanoma skin cancers, SCC and BCC that show a direct correlation with sun exposure accumulated over many years.
Melanomas on the other hand are related to brief intense exposure and severe sunburn. It is now believed that BCC may also sometimes be triggered this way.
Harmless skin lesions caused by sun exposure
Some benign (harmless) but unsightly skin blemishes can also be triggered or worsened by sun exposure including seborrheic keratosis (senile warts), age spots (sun spots) and thread veins. Though these are simple and quick to treat, it is better to avoid getting them if possible.
Protect your skin from too much sun
So it is really important to protect your skin from burning, above all else. It is a good idea to use sun protection which slows down the absorption of UVA and UVB rays thus allowing the skin to build it’s natural protection (tan) without burning. This will help prevent the skin from burning but the skin will still get a dose of vitamin D and may tan a little. The important thing is not to over do sun exposure.
Do avoid being exposed to the sun during the hottest part of the day, between 11am and 3pm.
If you think you may be vitamin D deficient, use supplementation rather than spending more time in the sun.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends 1,000 IU of vitamin D for people (adults) who practice sun protection. Check with your doctor as to safe amounts for children.
All in all, you can enjoy the sun and reap it’s benefits by being sensible. If you do have blemishes such as seborrheic keratosis and want them removing we can help you so call us on 01962 809937 for seborrheic keratosis removal in Hampshire and also the removal of other benign skin lesions in Hampshire.