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Here comes the sun

Sun exposure is totally unavoidable for most of us at all times of the year, however in summer especially, we must take time to consider the benefits and dangers of exposure and the best ways to protect our skin from sun damage.

The sun gives off ultraviolet (UV) rays (radiation) which penetrate though the ozone layer of our atmosphere and into our biggest organ, our skin. There are 3 factors which determine the amount of UV radiation reaching our skin. These are the elevation of the sun in the sky, the amount of ozone in the stratosphere, and the number of clouds present.  (http://www.cdc.gov/nasd/docs/d000901-d001000/d000979/1.html)

Research shows that both the time of day and the amount of time you spend in the sun correlate to the amount of damage sun exposure can do. Between the hours of 10am and 2 pm, the sun is at its highest elevation and therefore presents the most danger with burn time usually within 15 minutes!
Prevention is always better than the cure, and in the case of sun damage, this is especially true! The biggest danger is over exposure to the sun’s UV rays, which causes sun burn. This can be extremely damaging as it is literally a burn to living tissue. However, even at its mildest it can be uncomfortable and cause general fatigue and dizziness. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunburn)

Other dangers of over exposure to the sun can include skin aging, skin cancer, and cataracts in older people. (http://www.cdc.gov/elcosh/docs/d0100/d000146/D000146.html).

While we understand the dangers of over exposure to the sun, we must also consider the suns many benefits. Sunshine is absolutely necessary for our bodies to thrive. There is even a scientific reason why!  “Sunlight triggers an increase in the feel-good brain chemical serotonin. Serotonin controls sleep patterns, body temperature and your sex drive, and also lifts your mood and wards off depression”. (http://www.naturalhealthbenefits.com/health-and-sunlight.html)
Sunlight is also needed by the body to make Vitamin D which absorbs calcium. Low supplies of vitamin D may result in insufficient calcium absorption from the diet. The body will then take calcium from our bones which can weaken our bones and lead to osteoporosis and has even been linked to cancer. (http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Bone_Health/Nutrition/default.asp)

Moderation is the key
As with many things is life, moderation is the key to safe and healthy sun exposure.
While you are enjoying the sun this summer, remember these tips to ensure that you protect your skin and your health.

- Wear a hat.
- Wear tightly-woven clothing covering as much of the body as is practicable.
- Apply sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher on exposed skin.
- Wear eyeglasses that effectively filter ultraviolet rays.
- 15 minutes of sun exposure daily promotes healthy vitamin D levels for most people.



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