“Avoid sunlight, it will give you skin cancer.” You’ve probably heard people say it, but it isn’t always good advice. Sunlight is our most important source of vitamin D. The current epidemic of vitamin D deficiency is largely a result of avoiding healthy levels of sun exposure.
The amount of sunshine time we need in order to make enough vitamin D varies from person to person. It is affected by things like skin type, time of day and time of year. Often, just a few minutes of sunshine several times a week is enough. Getting a normal level of vitamin D always takes less time than the heavy exposure that leads to tanning and sunburn. It doesn’t need to be difficult to get a balance between enjoying the beneficial effects of sunshine without increasing the risk of skin cancer. Once a person’s skin makes enough vitamin D, any extra vitamin D becomes inactive. That means that staying in the sun long enough to get a sunburn doesn’t improve your vitamin D level, it just increases your risk of skin cancer.
Vitamin D synthesis is much lower in winter months in countries at higher latitudes. Therefore vitamin D supplementation is recommended during the winter.
Elvin Adams, MD, MPH
Source: Adapted from PositiveChoices.com. Used with permission