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Healthy Sun Exposure
There are undoubtedly many good things about sun exposure. It can be beneficial to our psychological health and enables our bodies to produce vitamin D. Vitamin D is of enormous importance to health and we typically consume only limited amounts of it unless we eat large quantities of particular foods such as oily fish. However, there is clear evidence that holiday sun exposure and sunburn are causing a great increase in melanoma among fair skinned and ’moley‘ people. In order to control this worrying trend it is necessary to moderate this type of exposure in the vulnerable. As vitamin D is very important to human health this should however be done without resulting in vitamin D deficiency.
There remain several key questions concerning vitamin D such as: “what levels we should be aiming for?” and “how do we achieve those levels?” In studies on risk of cardiovascular disease, both low and high levels of vitamin D were reported as harmful 1 so there are concerns about what advice to give. High levels might also increase the risk of kidney stones and cause suppression of the immune system. The effects of vitamin D are most consistently reported to be favourable at a serum level of around 70nmol/L (although this remains controversial).
Despite the complicated picture a clear message can be given to everyone:
- Avoid sunburn.
- Avoid excessive sun exposure.
- Do not become vitamin D deficient. If you live in Europe and need to avoid the sun, take supplements according to your national advice.
- Learn to know your skin and look after it.