Your Skin and the Summer Sun

By Dr. Holly German, N.D.

For thousands of years people have honored the sun. We know that without the sun, our existence would not be possible and out planet would be a very different place. In recent years, as the increased fear of skin cancer has permeated out society, the sun has been viewed more as a hazard to your health than a life-giving orb in the sky.

The sun is not solely to blame for skin damage. Antioxidant status plays a huge role. Skin damage is essentially oxidation and in people with high antioxidant status, the “oxidation” we call a sun burn occurs much less.

Vitamin D:
Your primary source of vitamin D is from the sun. Research has shown that people who are deficient in Vitamin D have higher rates of autoimmune diseases and cancer. Ironically, in our fervor to prevent skin cancer by using sunscreen, we are blocking the ability of our skin to create this powerful anti-cancer nutrient. At an SPF above 8, our skin can no longer make vitamin D from the sun’s rays. A simple blood test can tell you the level of Vitamin D you have circulating in your blood.

Skin ABC’s
Most skin cancers, if caught early, have a high cure rate. I always recommend that people regularly examine their entire skin surface for moles, sores, or discolorations (collectively known as skin lesions). Generally, skin lesions that have changed or newly formed are of greater concern. An easy way to know if a lesion is suspicious is to remember the ABCD’s. This method is not 100% reliable so if you feel concerned, please see your doctor for an examination.

  • Asymmetry – Is the lesion perfectly round? Is it wider on one half than on the other? The greater the asymmetry, the greater the concern.

  • Borders – Look at the border of lesion, where the lesion meets the skin around it. Borders that are irregular, notched or blurred are of greater concern.

  • Color – What color is the lesion? Is it the same color throughout or does the color vary or have a mottled appearance? The more irregularity in color, the greater the concern.

  • Diameter – Is the diameter of the lesion greater than the size of a pencil eraser? The larger the lesion, the greater the concern.

Healthy skin begins on the inside. When snacking on the beach, munch on dark skinned berries and sip on iced green tea for an antioxidant-packed snack. I also recommend taking high quality antioxidant supplements before and during sun exposure. If you are going to be in the sun for a long period of time, use skin protection in the form of non-toxic sunscreens or hats/clothing. Short daily bursts of sun are ideal for maximizing Vitamin D production. I recommend at least 10 minutes per day uncovered in the sun.