Tag Archives: sun

A Rite of Spring: Sunshine

Every spring, the sun seems newly discovered. I take it for granted most of the time, and instead worry about painting the house, washing the truck or ninth grade math homework.

But sometimes I notice and it can occur during the most mundane errand, like refilling my blood pressure prescription. I’m walking across the parking lot and suddenly notice the sun warming my skin.

Some ancient reptilian area of your brain wakes up and the thought comes to mind – stop and bask, photosynthesize a while. Get in your car and sit a moment in the sunshine and feel the warmth come over your body.ID-10021313

The sun is the single most dominant force on the planet (at least in our little corner of the solar system). You have to travel a dozen light years to find a star that can compete with the sun.

Sun worship has waxed and waned through human history, but it certainly has to be seen as one of the dominant belief systems as people struggle to find their place in the universe.

The sun is pretty hard to ignore. Its radius is about 100 times the radius of the Earth and about a quarter million times the mass (weight) of our planet. It’s made of hot plasma and magnetic fields; whatever that means. That doesn’t even sound like something from our universe.

The sun is almost entirely made of hydrogen. It’s a giant nuclear reactor fusing hydrogen into helium at the rate of approximately 600 million metric tons a second. And we are eight minutes away as sunlight travels. A little closer or a bit further away gives you a frozen planet or a cinder of one.

You can think of the Earth as surfing on a great wave of sunshine energy. With a little luck we can do it another 4 billion years – talk about endless summer. Maybe the Beach Boys were right!

Our entire planet runs on less than 1 percent of the energy put out by the sun.  That is ultimately the energy budget for everything that we do, think, consume or look at. Without our 1 percent of sunshine, none of us would be here, not even Apple.

And while we’re basking in the sunshine, notice that our sun rotates around the center of the Milky Way galaxy like a giant clock, once every 225 to 250 million years. All of human history has occurred in a couple of seconds as counted on this timepiece.

The next time you walk outside, stop and savor this microsecond in cosmic time that allows you to be effortlessly balanced between forces of unimaginable strength. It’s a moment that should bring a smile to your face.

Take care and have an enjoyable, sunny spring day.

Dr. B

Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic. 

Image courtesy/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

Sun Poses Long-Term Dangers to Outdoor Workers

For 9 million Americans, being outside and in the sun is not just for summer fun – it’s a part of their job.

Workers in farming, landscaping, construction, recreation and even postal workers will spend hours in the sun – and consequently be exposed to potentially harmful levels of ultraviolet radiation.

Ultraviolet radiation, and specifically UVB, is the main environmental hazard to the outdoor worker. Most workers’ shifts include the peak intensity hours of UV exposure – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Since this type of radiation (UVB) easily penetrates clouds, it can reach worrisome levels even on days where little sun is visible. It easily passes through glass and can be reflected into areas of apparent shade.

UVB penetrates through the tough, dead outer layers of skin, into the replicating layers. It is there that it interacts with the living tissue, not entirely in a negative fashion – UV radiation on unprotected skin produces Vitamin D.

Many believe, and there is some evidence to back it up, that there are anti-cancer properties in this potent antioxidant vitamin.

But radiation on living tissue also has a biologic cost. UVB radiation causes DNA damage and is officially listed as a carcinogen. This damage is cumulative.

Ultraviolet radiation and skin cancer share a similar relationship to that of cigarette smoking and lung cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, those who work outside are twice as likely to contract skin cancer as indoor workers.

To protect workers from this hazard, we need to reduce the dose of UVB radiation.

The obvious solution for employers is to instruct workers to avoid sun exposure and seek shade when available. When possible, employers can rotate or stagger work shifts so that employees spend less time working during the sunniest parts of the day.

While the suggestion that people wear long-sleeve shirts during high temperature periods usually is greeted with derision, in fact there are a variety of new fabrics with high Sun Protection Factor values that are light weight, breathable and durable.

One of the oldest fabrics – cotton – has long been recognized for its skin protective value in the hottest climates. Cotton long-sleeved, loose-fitting shirts and pants, and broad-billed hats are some effective clothing options for outdoor workers. In dry climates, the fabric actually soaks up sweat and is an effective evaporative cooler.

Sunblock provides UV protection, but the level of protection is almost universally overestimated.

The most common error people make is using high Sun Protection Factor, sweat-proof sunblock and applying it only once. Sunblock generally loses effectiveness after about two hours due to sweating, the friction of clothing and deterioration due to sunshine. And too often, too little is applied. An ounce is recommended to get advertised protection. But remember, sunblock isn’t “liquid shade.”

These common sense protective measures can help safeguard you and your employees year round, but particularly during the summer months when, in most parts of the country, exposure to UVB radiation is highest.

With awareness and a few simple steps, we can help workers avoid the short-term sting of a sunburn and the long-term consequences of too much sun exposure.

Take care,

Dr. B.

Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid and Poulsen Photo / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

photo credit: angrywayne via photopin cc

Springtime musings of Sunshine

Every spring, the sun seems newly discovered. I take it for granted most of the time; instead, worrying about painting the house, washing the truck or ninth grade math homework.

But sometimes I notice and it can occur during the most mundane errand, like refilling my blood pressure prescription. I’m walking across the parking lot and suddenly notice the sun warming my skin.

Some ancient reptilian area of your brain wakes up and the thought comes to mind – stop and bask, photosynthesize a while. Get in your car and sit a moment in the sunshine and feel the warmth come over your body.

The sun is the single most dominant force on the planet (at least in our little corner of the solar system). You have to travel a dozen light years to find a star that can compete with the sun.

Sun worship has waxed and waned through human history, but it certainly has to be seen as one of the dominant belief systems as people struggle to find their place in the universe.

The sun is pretty hard to ignore. Its radius is about 100 times the radius of the Earth and about a quarter million times the mass (weight) of our planet. It’s made of hot plasma and magnetic fields; whatever that means. That doesn’t even sound like something from our universe.

The sun is almost entirely made of hydrogen. It’s a giant nuclear reactor fusing hydrogen into helium at the rate of approximately 600 million metric tons a second. And we are eight minutes away as sunlight travels. A little closer or a bit further away gives you a frozen planet or a cinder of one.

You can think of the Earth as surfing on a great wave of sunshine energy. With a little luck we can do it another 4 billion years – talk about endless summer. Maybe the Beach Boys were right!

Our entire planet runs on less than 1 percent of the energy put out by the sun. That is ultimately the energy budget for everything that we do, think, consume or look at. Without our 1 percent of sunshine, none of us would be here, not even Apple.

And while we’re basking in the sunshine, notice that our sun rotates around the center of the Milky Way galaxy like a giant clock, once every 225 to 250 million years. All of human history has occurred in a couple of seconds as counted on this timepiece.

The next time you walk outside, stop and savor this microsecond in cosmic time that allows you to be effortlessly balanced between forces of unimaginable strength. It’s a moment that should bring a smile to your face.

Take care and have a sunny day.

Dr. B

Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.

Image courtesy of graur codrin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Summer and Sun

It’s summertime and I have sunshine on the brain (pretty hard not to at 111 degrees!)

Sunshine and thinking people have a “complicated relationship.” First, it is undeniably the giver of life. Without sunshine, Planet Earth would be close to absolute zero. Even the gases would be solid.

'Sun' photo (c) 2007, Jalal Hameed Bhatti - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/There would be no life at all, unless crystal growth counts. Yet this life-giving radiation is a source of wrinkles, aging, and the occasional cancer. Icarus syndrome, perhaps.

A suntan is the most visible effect of time spent in the sun. The ability to suntan is, like so many other things in life, fundamentally unfair (blame it on your parents). Melanin is the stuff of suntans. It is pigment made by your skin cells in response to ultraviolet radiation. It protects your skin cells from genetic damage.

The amount of melanin you start with is hereditary. If your people hail from Ireland, you have so little melanin that you can sunburn just thinking about a sunny day. If your blood calls Persia home, beach volleyball is your friend.

Suntans have not always been popular. As recently as a couple of generations ago, a suntan was considered evidence of an outdoor career, i.e. farm labor.

People went to extremes to appear pale; not only avoiding sun exposure, but applying somewhat poisonous bleaching chemicals to their skin.

Fast forward to the ‘70s and suntans are back in fashion. The “California look;” all blond and suntanned, seizes the public consciousness. Rickets almost disappears; and unemployed doctors go into dermatology.

Sunblock was invented in response to all this healthy glow; our schizophrenic thing with sun again. And someone decided to dice up the ultraviolet spectrum, forever confusing even smart people. Truth in advertising, SPF reform, hasn’t caught up with the sunblock industry yet, although the FDA is threatening. Smear this on and take 20 years off your skin.

Sunshine is made of infrared, visible and a couple hundred wavelengths of ultraviolet radiation. Infrared keeps you warm and cozy, like a lizard on a sunny rock. Visible light makes things look good, avoids broken legs, and gives you an excuse to wear cool sunglasses. Ultraviolet radiation is the pesky part. It is higher energy radiation and can breakdown the DNA in your skin, which keeps dermatologists employed.

When we talk ultraviolet radiation (UV), we are mostly talking about UVB (280-320 nm). UVB is blocked by the ozone layer and sunblock (mostly). It will give you a bad sunburn, and perhaps worse – old, saggy, wrinkled skin, age spots or cancer.

But UVB also stimulates vitamin D production; which is a free radical scavenger with anti-cancer properties. It also stimulates melanin production, which is the ultimate sunblock.

UVA is the latest thing. It is a little higher frequency than B (UVA 320-400nm). It comes down on us all daylight hours in all seasons. It is not blocked by the ozone layer or by most sunblocks. UVA oxidizes melanin which darkens it, gives you some quick color, but no sunburn protection. Oxidized melanin doesn’t stop UV anything. You need more melanin, not just a different color of melanin. UVA doesn’t directly damage DNA – it creates free radicals, which may be worse.

There is a great deal of research being done on new sunblocks effective against both UVA and UVB. Living in the desert we have learned to live in peace with the sun. Sunblocks, shade, Gatorade and cool sunglasses are a part of our lives. I draw the line at funny little sun umbrellas, not until I’m much older.

As always, take care.

Dr. B

Best of Our Blog: Sun Poses Long-Term Dangers to Outdoor Workers

With the summer and its heat approaching, almost everyone will be out in the sun more than they were during the winter.

For 9 million Americans, being outside and in the sun is not just for summer fun – it’s a part of their job.

'sun grass' photo (c) 2010, David DeHetre - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Workers in farming, landscaping, construction, recreation and even postal workers will spend hours in the sun – and consequently be exposed to potentially harmful levels of ultraviolet radiation.

Ultraviolet radiation, and specifically UVB, is the main environmental hazard to the outdoor worker. Most workers’ shifts include the peak intensity hours of UV exposure – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Since this type of radiation, UVB, easily penetrates clouds, it can reach worrisome levels even on days where little sun is visible. It easily passes through glass and can be reflected into areas of apparent shade.

UVB penetrates through the tough, dead outer layers of skin, into the replicating layers. It is there that it interacts with the living tissue, not entirely in a negative fashion – UV radiation on unprotected skin produces Vitamin D. Many believe, and there is some evidence to back it up, that there are anti-cancer properties in this potent antioxidant vitamin.

But radiation on living tissue also has a biologic cost. UVB radiation causes DNA damage and is officially listed as a carcinogen. This damage is cumulative. Ultraviolet radiation and skin cancer share a similar relationship to that of cigarette smoking and lung cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, those who work outside are twice as likely to contract skin cancer as indoor workers.

To protect workers from this hazard, we need to reduce the dose of UVB radiation.

The obvious solution for employers is to instruct workers to avoid sun exposure and seek shade when available. When possible, employers can rotate or stagger work shifts so that employees spend less time working during the sunniest parts of the day.

While the suggestion that people wear long-sleeve shirts during high temperature periods usually is greeted with derision, in fact there are a variety of new fabrics with high Sun Protection Factor values that are light weight, breathable and durable.

One of the oldest fabrics, cotton, has long been recognized for its skin protective value in the hottest climates. Cotton long-sleeved, loose-fitting shirts and pants, and broad-billed hats are some effective clothing options for outdoor workers. In dry climates, the fabric actually soaks up sweat and is an effective evaporative cooler.

Sunblock provides UV protection, but the level of protection is almost universally overestimated.

The most common error people make is using high Sun Protection Factor, sweat-proof sunblock and applying it only once. Sunblock generally loses effectiveness after about two hours due to sweating, the friction of clothing and deterioration due to sunshine. And too often, too little is applied. An ounce is recommended to get advertised protection. But remember, sunblock isn’t “liquid shade.”

These common sense protective measures can help safeguard you and your employees year round, but particularly during the summer months when, in most parts of the country, exposure to UVB radiation is highest. With awareness and a few simple steps, we can help workers avoid the short-term sting of a sunburn and the long-term consequences of too much sun exposure.

Dr. Donald Bucklin

The New View on Sunscreen

After many years, the FDA has taken steps this week to clear up “some” of the confusion regarding the use and effectiveness of sunscreen products. Comparing the various products on the market is very challenging for consumers. Inconsistent and misleading claims have been tolerated for far too long. Although the recent changes in labeling regulations are welcomed, they do not completely clear all the discrepancies.

Dermatologists have long recommended regular use of sunscreen to prevent the damaging effects of the sun leading to skin cancer and premature wrinkling of the skin. The medical consensus has been that SPF of 15 was the minimal strength that provided protection. Now under the newest regulations no product can make claims of that cancer protection without being at least that strong. Sunscreen products will also be required to protect against both ultraviolet A and B rays (UVA& UVB). This will eliminate some confusion about which protection is provided. Both cause the damaging effects that lead to skin cancer.

After 30 years of wrangling, the FDA regulations have caught up with the medical science that an SPF higher than 50 is no better. The higher or more expensive products do not provide greater protection contrary to popular belief. The science behind this is well established.

No product will be allowed to claim being waterproof. However, manufacturers will be allowed to estimate how long their product may be water or sweat resistant.

This still allows some room for confusion as the reality of individuals and their activities can create vast differences in the product performance.

Typical outdoor activities with prolonged sun exposure require reapplication of sunscreen for adequate protection. Specialists have also advocated reapplication as frequently as every 20 to 30 minutes or after swimming or excessive sweating. At the very least, once every hour sunscreen should be reapplied. These activities simply dilute the product applied and make it much less effective. For adequate protection, it has to be reapplied.

It’s important to remember that none of these products completely block the damaging UV rays. They filter it and slow the burning, damaging process.

For common everyday use, a product with SPF 15 is probably adequate. For outdoor recreation or work in the sun, SPF of 40 to 50 is recommended. Product claims of outlandish performance will no longer be allowed.

There still are issues of controversy that remain unresolved. It is not clear whether there is any advantage of spray over lotion. There have been some questions raised regarding safety of aerosol propellants and the sunscreen chemicals themselves. More study is needed to determine answers to these questions.

Yet it is clear that sun damage accumulates in the skin over time causing potentially deadly cancers that are easily prevented. Even one or two episodes of sunburn dramatically increase the risk of skin cancer.

Enjoy the summer, but protect your skin – and your life.

Dr. Bruce Kaler

The Placer (Calif.) Herald: Sun can pose long-term danger to outdoor workers

By Dr. Donald Bucklin, U.S. HealthWorks

June 9, 2011

With the summer and its heat approaching, almost everyone will be out in the sun more than they were during the winter.

http://placerherald.com/detail/180515.html

Sun Poses Long-Term Dangers to Outdoor Workers

By Dr. Donald Bucklin

With the summer and its heat approaching, almost everyone will be out in the sun more than they were during the winter.

For 9 million Americans, being outside and in the sun is not just for summer fun – it’s a part of their job.

Workers in farming, landscaping, construction, recreation and even postal workers will spend hours in the sun – and consequently be exposed to potentially harmful levels of ultraviolet radiation.

Working in the Heatphoto © 2011 MSDSonline.com | more info (via: Wylio)Ultraviolet radiation, and specifically UVB, is the main environmental hazard to the outdoor worker. Most workers’ shifts include the peak intensity hours of UV exposure – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Since this type of radiation, UVB, easily penetrates clouds, it can reach worrisome levels even on days where little sun is visible. It easily passes through glass and can be reflected into areas of apparent shade.

UVB penetrates through the tough, dead outer layers of skin, into the replicating layers. It is there that it interacts with the living tissue, not entirely in a negative fashion – UV radiation on unprotected skin produces Vitamin D. Many believe, and there is some evidence to back it up, that there are anti-cancer properties in this potent antioxidant vitamin.

But radiation on living tissue also has a biologic cost. UVB radiation causes DNA damage and is officially listed as a carcinogen. This damage is cumulative. Ultraviolet radiation and skin cancer share a similar relationship to that of cigarette smoking and lung cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, those who work outside are twice as likely to contract skin cancer as indoor workers.

To protect workers from this hazard, we need to reduce the dose of UVB radiation.

The obvious solution for employers is to instruct workers to avoid sun exposure and seek shade when available. When possible, employers can rotate or stagger work shifts so that employees spend less time working during the sunniest parts of the day.

While the suggestion that people wear long-sleeve shirts during high temperature periods usually is greeted with derision, in fact there are a variety of new fabrics with high Sun Protection Factor values that are light weight, breathable and durable.

One of the oldest fabrics, cotton, has long been recognized for its skin protective value in the hottest climates. Cotton long-sleeved, loose-fitting shirts and pants, and broad-billed hats are some effective clothing options for outdoor workers. In dry climates, the fabric actually soaks up sweat and is an effective evaporative cooler.

Sunblock provides UV protection, but the level of protection is almost universally overestimated.

The most common error people make is using high Sun Protection Factor, sweat-proof sunblock and applying it only once. Sunblock generally loses effectiveness after about two hours due to sweating, the friction of clothing and deterioration due to sunshine. And too often, too little is applied. An ounce is recommended to get advertised protection. But remember, sunblock isn’t “liquid shade.”

These common sense protective measures can help safeguard you and your employees year round, but particularly during the summer months when, in most parts of the country, exposure to UVB radiation is highest. With awareness and a few simple steps, we can help workers avoid the short-term sting of a sunburn and the long-term consequences of too much sun exposure.

Sunshine 101

Summertime. The kids are off, the pool is warm and the sun is working overtime, at least if you live in Phoenix, Arizona. I daresay we may very well be the sunshine capital of the country. Our newspapers don’t list minutes of peak sun exposure to sunburn – we list seconds. Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but we know sunshine in the desert.

Before we get into the latest anti-aging/fountain of youth/magic sunblock, we need to talk about sunburn a bit.

The sun is a great big natural nuclear reactor up in the sky. Interestingly enough, the earth quakes (sun quakes) and tidal forces on the sun are literally off the Richter Scale, but the sun seems to tolerate them and should for a couple more billion years. The sun puts out radiation that they don’t make sunblock for, but by the time that radiation reaches earth, it has been reduced in intensity about 10 zillion percent. What is left is a mixture of X-rays, ultraviolet, visible light and infrared (heat) radiation. Most of the X-ray radiation is dispersed in the atmosphere. We are big fans of the visible and infrared radiation (think of a lizard sitting in a sunbeam). The ultraviolet we deal with less elegantly than the infrared.

sun shadephoto © 2007 .D.B. | more info (via: Wylio)

Ultraviolet light is broken up into 3 kinds – A, B and C. They do this to confuse people and make it seen complicated. UVA is the closest to visible light; it passes most easily through the atmosphere and won’t give you a sunburn. UVA is used in tanning beds and photo therapy. Photo therapy is when you go to Hawaii because you’re depressed (and try to deduct it as a medical expense).

UVB is shorter and higher energy. The ozone layer absorbs much of it, but we get enough at the surface to still get a pretty good sunburn. UVC is entirely absorbed by the atmosphere, and a good thing too, because it is germicidal and could wreak havoc with the microbes and ecology of the world – not to mention, you could watch your skin age.

The problem with ultraviolet radiation is it damages the skin. Excessive exposure over a short time results in the well known sunburn. This is a first-degree burn to sun-exposed skin. Anyone who has ever had one can appreciate just how much skin you have. It’s the largest organ on the body, and it is well supplied with nerves, particularly pain fibers. Hydration and ibuprofen are the way to go with the usual sunburn. A really severe sunburn needs hospitalization with IV hydration and serious pain meds.

But skin is damaged by sun exposure, even if there is no visible sunburn. Ultraviolet radiation penetrates surprisingly deep into tissue, damaging cellular DNA and elastin. DNA damage is usually repaired successfully by healthy cells. Rarely, the cell is repaired incorrectly but goes on and multiplies. We call that cancer.

UV radiation also breaks down the elastin in the skin. The elastin gives the skin its tone and support. Damage to the elastin leads to premature wrinkling and aging of the skin – a fate worse than death, according to some.

Sunblock is a recent development in society and has become an essential accessory on the equipment list for outdoor activity. There is little doubt it is generally effective at lowering UVB dosages, which reduces the more common kind of skin cancer and skin aging. Beyond that, sunblock is widely misunderstood. When was the last time you read the instructions on a sunblock bottle? Although it is counterintuitive, it doesn’t block the instant you smear it on. We think of them as paint. Smear them on and instant shade. They actually bind with elements in the skin to become effective. This takes time. In general, sunblock needs to be applied 15 or 20 minutes before sun exposure for peak effectiveness.

Then there is that whole Sun Protection Factor (SPF) number. There is a complicated formula to calculate the protective value of a sunblock. I have been known to stand in front of the sunblock display and carefully consider my outdoor activity and which to buy among 15 different brands, claims of waterproof/sweat proof/anti-aging and SPFs from 15 to 60. A frustrating experience and a waste of time. Buy your favorite smell, nicest bottle or least expensive as long as the SPF is 15 or greater.

The SPF factor is almost irrelevant. The SPF value of your sunblock is the least important ingredient in whether you get a sunburn. The dirty truth: sunblock only protects you for about 2 hours. Sunblock loses effectiveness with time, water, sweat, dirt and sun exposure. If you apply SPF 15, you will block about 90% of UV radiation for 2 hours. If you apply SPF 50, you will block 95% of UV radiation for 2 hours. After 2 hours, you are on your own. High SPF numbers wash, sweat and bake off just as fast as low SPF numbers. You really can’t get longer protection from higher SPF numbers.

The next common sunblock operator error is not using enough. Too thin of a layer will not protect you fully. That means you need to use an ounce. What is an ounce? Fill up a shot glass. That’s a lot of sunblock!

Sunblock also has an expiration date on it. Don’t count on full 2-hour protection if the bottle is expired.

Keep in mind, that the best sunblock is not portable shade. It is hard to beat shade. There is a reason the outdoor workers in Phoenix wear long pants, long-sleeve shirts and hats, even in the summer. Clothing does not lose its SPF factor for years. You can even be one of those funny people who carry umbrellas on sunny days when shopping.

Summertime is a great excuse to be outdoors doing active, fun things. A little preparation will allow you to avoid a sunburn and play another day.

Take care,

Dr. B

Sunshine – Friend or Foe?

Sunshine is necessary for human survival and the survival of every other plant and animal on the planet. But are we supposed to spend time in the sun or just enjoy the secondary benefit – that our planet isn’t a frozen ball of rock in deep space? The pendulum of medical opinion on sun exposure seems to swing regularly. We have all met someone with a deep tan who looks like a human Shar Pei at 45.

The case against spending time dozing in the sun, like a lizard, is strong. Sunlight has a lot of ultraviolet radiation. This radiation penetrates the skin and damages the DNA. Damaging DNA is a bad thing to do because sometimes the cells will die, and occasionally they will turn cancerous. Skin cancer is clearly associated with sun exposure. Unfortunately, the time your skin is most susceptible to sun damage is before you are old enough to read the sunscreen bottle. If that isn’t bad enough, ultraviolet radiation also breaks down the elastic elements in the skin. Destroy enough elastin, and you resemble that Shar Pei.

For the last 20+ years, the entire medical community has been yelling, “Stay out of the sun!” Then a funny thing happened – we started looking at vitamin D and cancer.

A bit of background. Vitamin D is made in the human body by sun exposure on your skin. The more intense the sun exposure, the greater the level of vitamin D produced. Doctors have known since the Mayflower that low vitamin D levels cause rickets. In modern times, most of us have seen skin cancer but never a single case of rickets, thus the advice, “Avoid the sun.”

About 10 years ago, scientists were studying sun exposure and deaths due to skin cancer. This was a pretty detailed and serious study. They found the expected modest increase in the number of skin cancer cases but a substantial decrease in deaths from all causes. Some head scratching ensued. The scientists then decided to measure vitamin D levels by areas of the country and compare them to various causes of death. They found people in sunny places like California and Arizona had less cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Places like Minnesota and North Dakota had less skin cancer but more of everything else.

Vitamin D acts as a hormone in the body and has its fingers in numerous biologic reactions. The current thinking is vitamin D protects against a number of different diseases. Unfortunately, vitamin D supplementation is a recent development. It hasn’t been around long enough to actually prove protection against all these various diseases (from cancer to Alzheimer’s).

Today I would tell you a modest dose of sunshine on a daily basis is a good thing. You should live longer for it. Move to Arizona or Florida; become a nudist. If that doesn’t fit in your life plan, you might just want to stick with vitamin D supplements.

- Dr. Don Bucklin, National MRO – a.k.a. “Dr. B”


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