* Up to age 60, up to 90% of skin aging is actually sun damage
* 5 million people in the US are treated each year for some form of skin cancer
* The incidence of skin cancer has risen 77% between 1992 and 2006
* 90% of all non-melanoma skin cancers are due to UV rays
* Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29
Despite these numbers I hear many reasons ( excuses?) for not using sunscreens and most of them are easily refuted. But then there is the issue of vitamin D.
Vitamin D 101
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that has long been liked to strong bones and teeth as well as a healthy immune system. More recently, research suggests that low vitamin D levels may increase risk of a wide range of health problems including diabetes, breast and prostate cancers and high blood pressure. We can get vitamin D from oily fish like tuna and salmon, but most of our natural vitamin D is actually maufactured in our own skin. When exposed to sunlight, the body can convert a type of cholesterol into active vitamin D. And it takes very little sunlight to get the job done. For most people as little as ten minutes a day will provide the body with the necessary amounts of vitamin D. In fact additional exposure will actually start to destroy the newly formed vitamin D.
Vitamin D and Your Sunscreen
Some health gurus are now warning that by blocking UV rays, sunscreens put us at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Not true. To begin with, sunscreens are just not that effective. Most of us put on sunscreens in the morning and forget about them. In truth, most of the effectiveness of the sunscreen wears off in less than two hours and few of us are diligent enough to reapply them. Even if we wear a sunscreen, hat and shirt, light skined individuals will still absorb enough rays on our hands and legs to produce vitamin D. Since it can be difficult to get adequate vitamin D in the diet, milk, butter and flour and ready to eat cereals have been fortified with this essential vitamin starting in the 1930’s.
Supplements Rather than Sun
Current guidelines from The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) suggest 600 IU ( International Units) a day for people from 1-70. Under one year, the recommendation is 400 IU and over 70 its 800 ID daily. I have found that almost every doctor I see is recommending 2000 IU a day to have a safety margin. Many multi-vitamin supplements already contain the RDA for vitamin D. If you take individual vitamins, make sure you include a vitamin D supplement. Your teeth, bones and immune system will thank you. And don’t forget that a good sunscreen is your skin’s best friend.