Sun, summer and health
The beginning of summer every year also signals a peak of the recurrent campaigns about the harmful effects of the sun and its “dangerous” radiation. We will, not least by the Danish Cancer Society and cancer doctors be advised to stay in the shade away from the suns rays. Apply a thick layer of sunscreen, wear a hat and in general fear the sun and remain pale. However, is it really necessary to avoid the sun and remain pale?
Large posters of the extensive campaign, led by Cancer Society, can be seen throughout the country. They warn against the effects of the sun with the message: “Have Siesta, use a hat, avoid a tanning bed” This slogan is meant as a warning against the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, as sun exposure can increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
However the campaign itself and information about the sun’s negative effects, in our opinion, is absolutely one-sided and therefore provides a rather limited and misleading view on the actual effects of the sun’s UV rays.
Since our diet is low in vitamin D, it is almost impossible to obtain adequate intakes of this important vitamin through food, even by regular consumption of foods high in vitamin D such fatty fish (herring, salmon, cod) and dairy products.
Must use sun
Fortunately, the body is in a position to produce vitamin D with exposure to the sun’s UV-B rays, if we do not always wear a hat, veil, a thick layer of sunscreen or stay in shade.
In other words, the vitamin’s presence is mostly proportinal to the amount of skin which is left exposed to the sun during hot season.
Vitamin D is essential to many of our bodily functions, and even minor deficiency could, for example, weaken our muscle strength. This is particularly true for the elderly and the consequences can be severe, since weakened muscles might lead to greater fall risk and thus increase the risk of broken bones.
Vitamin D also has a direct impact on our bones strength and health, since it is responsible for the absorption of calcium from our food.
Insufficient intake of vitamin D (too little sun exposure) in combination with a lack of physical activity in childhood and adolescence significantly increase the risk of osteoporosis and consequently may lead to premature disability, impaired quality of life and death.
The paradox is the fact that studies have shown a link between lack of vitamin D and prostate cancer in men, as well as many other forms of cancer, i.e. breast, colon and rectal cancer.
It is true that excessive sun exposure in the same way as excessive alcohol intake, excessive intake of food, etc..’s is unhealthy. But the sun is essential to our health and life in many ways, and a unilateral warning against any sun exposure therefore puts public health at risk.
The bottom line is that summer is a great opportunity to be together socially – children, youth and adults – while strengethening your health with increased levels of physical activity, play and sports, healthy and light food, and sun.
Tips for better health during summer:
- Enjoy the sun with respect.
- Remember that you do not get beneficial effects of the sun if you wear a lot of sunscreen at all times. Therefore aim to stay in the sun without sunscreen or other protection for around ½ hour a day. If you have very dark skin, you might increase this to almost 1 hour per day, as major skin pigmentation reduces the absorption of UV rays.
- Enjoy the sun, but avoid getting sunburned. It is primarily sunburn that increases the risk of skin cancer. Pay particular attention to the little children who rarely like to stay in the shade.
- Avoid sunbathing between midday and 15:00, where the UV index is greater.
Have a very nice summer!