The UK might be one of the most cultural, cosmopolitan and diverse countries in the world, but it’s not renowned for the exceptional levels of sunshine. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, the gloomy and grey climates encourage Brits to seek out the sun as often as they can. With the damaging effects of sun exposure widely reported, it is still clear that they are prepared to take risks in the pursuit of increasing our vitamin D intake.
Finding the balance between healthy exposure to the golden rays and avoiding the harsh realities of the potential skin cancer threats is key to enjoying holidays and warmer climates.
Our need for Vitamin D
Everybody needs vitamin D in order to be able to absorb calcium phosphorus from the foods that they consume. Vitamin D deficiencies can lead to weak bones, bone deformation, pain and tenderness. Vitamin D can be obtained through foods such as oily fish, some meats and eggs, though sun absorption is the primary way of maintaining and increasing vitamin D level.
The amount of sun that each person needs in order to maintain healthy vitamin D levels is different for every person. Factors such as the time of year and the natural pigmentation of a person’s skin influence the time needed, but the NHS is keen for all people to recognise that it is imperative to maintain a focus on safe exposure.
UV exposure and skin cancer
The major cause of skin cancer is the sun’s ultraviolet radiation though it is from this same source that we obtain our greatest dose of vitamin D. This is the vitamin that is responsible for promoting strong bones, a healthy body and increased energy. With such a confusing message, it is evident that there is a need to gain some clarity on how to find a healthy balance between sun exposure and vitamin D intake against the potentially fatal risks.
The Cancer Council of Australia recently published advice to ensure that those enjoying the sun down under could do so safely. The prominent feature of the advice is that sun protection is a necessity, no matter how desperate the need for vitamin D.
Skin care tips: sun protection
Applying sun protection before enjoying the rays needs to be a priority for all, even those who suffer from vitamin D deficiencies. It is true that the sun will increase a person’s level of vitamin D, but prolonged exposure will not lead to prolonged increases of the vitamin. Instead, a person’s levels will remain steady, but their risk of developing skin cancer symptoms will greatly increase.
Recognising the benefits of healthy levels of vitamin D, whilst observing the risks of exposure to the sun may seem like a difficult balancing act. Ultimately, sensible application of sun protection, a thorough understanding of your own skin and adopting a healthy diet can ensure that you are able to enjoy the sun, whilst maintaining vitamin D levels and minimising the risk of skin cancer and damage.
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