The sun is the center of our solar system and the driver for all life on Earth. For many of us, seeing more of the sun in the Spring and Summer months lifts our mood and spirits. Vitamin D, a very important hormone for bone, immune and neurological health, is made when the sun’s rays are in direct contact with the skin, which means that getting out in the sun can very much be a health promoting practice.

But like most things in life, too much exposure can be problematic because the sun’s powerful ultraviolet rays can be damaging to the body.

The main health concerns for excess sun exposure include sunburns, premature skin aging, eye damage, lowered immune function and different types of skin cancers caused by the sun. Did you know that skin cancer is actually the most common type of cancer in the US?!

As a general rule, everyone should try to limit the time they spend in direct sun between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM. If you have fair skin, are of older age, have many moles on your body or have other people in your family that have developed skin cancer before you should take extra precautions such as wearing sun hats, sunglasses and other protective clothing. For the summer, it’s also a good idea to use sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher every day on exposed skin. If possible, try to get sunscreens that don’t contain a long list of toxic chemicals that can be harmful to the body in other ways. For example, look for a mineral sunscreen that uses the active ingredient zinc oxide instead of more common chemicals like oxybenzone that the FDA now deems potentially hazardous and needing more safety research.

If you forgot all your safety measures and get sunburned one day, consider using some aloe vera gel (store bought or made at home by blending the center of an aloe leaf with a little water) and Vitamin E oil on the affected area – these can have a cooling and healing effect on burnt skin.

Also remember, if you ever get concerned about inadequate Vitamin D due to reducing sun exposure, you can always take a Vitamin D supplement. We can also test your levels in office to see where you are at before supplementing.

Your primary care doctor at Siskiyou Vital Medicine can take a look at any skin spots you are concerned about and can also do a full skin check to check places not as accessible to you, such as your back. Many lesions can also be removed right in office by Dr. Casey Frieder, who specializes in removal of unwanted skin spots and growths. Your doctor can also refer you to see a dermatologist for additional evaluation of lesions that may look suspicious.

The Siskiyou Vital Medicine team wishes you an enjoyable and safe summer in the sun.

 

By Dr. Kimani Borland