ALTHOUGH the importance of vitamin D has long been accepted in traditional healthcare, it has recently made headlines in allopathic medical circles and is being touted as one of our most essential health-building hormones (although called vitamin D, it is, in fact, a hormone).
Vitamin D cannot be manufactured by the body without exposure to ultraviolet rays, which are supplied by the sun. This makes it vital for you to spend time outdoors on a daily basis.
Cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM) is the most serious form of skin cancer, accounting for about three-quarters of all skin cancer deaths. New research now supports the opinion that while avoiding the sun at mid-day will decrease your risk of painful sunburn it will actually increase your cancer risk.
Apparently, the reason for this advice is this. When the sun moves towards the horizon (outside of the noon-day hours), UVA rays are stronger (or less filtered out) than UVB rays. UVA is correlated to melanoma, whereas UVB rays are the ones that help produce vitamin D. It’s at noon that UVB is at its strongest. Both UVA and UVB can cause tanning and burning, although UVB does so far more rapidly – so be cautious when spending time in the sun over noon. UVA, however, penetrates your skin more deeply than UVB, and is thought to be a much more important factor in photo-ageing, wrinkles and skin cancers.
Making sure you get enough vitamin D can help reduce your risk of cancer by up to 50%. Some research suggests 30% of cancer deaths in America could be prevented with higher levels of vitamin D.
It is relatively easy in this country to ensure exposure to adequate amounts of sunshine, even in winter. However, a number of things need to be considered.
Firstly, at least 40% of the skin’s surface area must be exposed, in order for vitamin D to be absorbed. Secondly, you should expose your skin gradually, depending on your skin colour (the fairer, the less sun needed). Thirdly, don’t use block-out or commercial suntan lotions on your skin, as these are loaded with chemicals and – in any event – defeat the purpose of sun exposure. Finally, bear in mind that the new recommendation for optimal vitamin D production is to be in the sun between 10am and 2pm.