Wellness Are Nigerians getting enough of the ‘sunshine’ vitamin?

Research has shown that a very low level of vitamin D is a major risk factor for melanoma and skin cancer.

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There is this erroneous opinion among Nigerians now that staying for a very long time in the sun causes sun burn and skin causer. This is very incorrect!

Sunlight causes your skin to produce vitamin D -- a fact that, ironically, means that sunscreen campaigns may have made millions of people chronically short of this critical nutrient, and put them at a greater risk of skin cancer, rather than reducing their risk.

Research shows that a very low level of vitamin D is a major risk factor for melanoma and skin cancer.

Why is the sun so beneficial?

Because it's through sunlight exposure that your body is able to produce vitamin D -- and optimized vitamin D levels are key to preventing numerous types of cancer, including melanoma.

To optimize your levels, you need to expose large portions of your skin to the sun, and you may need to do it for more than a few minutes. And, contrary to popular belief, the best time to be in the sun for vitamin D production is actually as near to solar noon as possible.

So to use the sun to maximize your vitamin D production and minimize your risk of malignant melanoma, the middle of the day (roughly between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.) is the best and safest time. During this time you need the shortest exposure time to produce vitamin D because UVB rays are most intense at this time. Plus, when the sun goes down toward the horizon, the UVB is filtered out much more than the dangerous UVA.

In terms of length of exposure, you only need enough exposure for at least 5 minutes, This may even be shorter for some people who have very pale skin.

Once you reach this point your body will not make any additional vitamin D and any additional exposure will only cause harm and damage to your skin. Also, the darker your skin, the longer exposure you will need to optimize your vitamin D production.

So what's the bottom line?

Get out in the sun more and enjoy it, but do so sensibly. Your body is made to be in the sun, and, when done properly, sun exposure will be one of the best ways you can help reduce your risk of skin, and many other forms of, cancer. If for whatever reason you are unable to get healthy doses of sun exposure then you can try oral vitamin D if nothing else is available. You will need to measure your blood levels though as that is the only way to know if your UVB exposure or oral dose is appropriate.

However, you clearly want to avoid overexposure to the sun, as that can cause problems. Remember, more is not better when it comes to sun exposure, so after you've gotten your fill of vitamin D it is advised to use an umbrella or stay under a shade. Sunburn provides no benefit and is not good for your skin, so the key to using the sun therapeutically is to get the proper "dose”

And for those who are always indoor, other alternative source of vitamin D includes fresh, raw vegetables as they also provide your body with an abundance of powerful antioxidants that will help you fight the free radicals caused by sun damage that can lead to burns and cancer.

Consuming a healthy diet full of natural antioxidants is another useful strategy to avoid sun damage to your skin, as fresh, raw, unprocessed foods deliver the nutrients that your body needs to maintain a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 oils in your skin, which is your first line of defense against sunburn.

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