Sun Exposure: Benefits and Cautions

By Marisa Peck

The summer is a time of abundance. Food, friends, fiestas, and yes our blessed Sun. We Venetians have to be extremely careful when it comes to the Sun. With so many benefits, come so many cautions. We all know that sunshine can brighten our mood, fuel our gardens, light our way, and just 15 minutes in the sun gives us our recommended daily allowance of bone strengthening vitamin D! But we know the brutal reality of sun damage to our skin. This summer there is much you can do to protect yourself, to strengthen your body and pamper your skin so you can be fit to enjoy summers to come.

The number one thing you can do on a daily basis to help mitigate the effects of the sun is to eat a diet rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants turn harmful, unstable particles that damage healthy cells (aka free radicals) into harmless stable particles that have little to no effect on our bodies. UV rays create free radicals. Loading up on antioxidants will increase your body’s natural ability to fight off these free radicals and thus prevent the damage that they cause (such as discoloration, wrinkles and cancer). Talk about an all-natural sunscreen! Some of my favorite antioxidant packed summer foods are Sunflower seeds, kale, spinach, artichokes, red peppers, watermelons, blueberries, oregano, green tea and chocolate. Oh yes, all natural dark Chocolate (just a few bites).

Another consideration Venetians should be taking seriously this summer is our wardrobe. Cover up people! Hats, long sleeve shirts and pants are the best protection from the Sun that money can buy. Be aware that many fabrics do not completely shield you from the UV rays. If you are like me you love being outdoors, you might consider investing in some clothes that are specifically suited to sun protection.

About now you may be thinking to yourself, “what about sunscreen?” I am so glad you asked. Sunscreen is questionable at best and should be used with extreme caution. For starters, most sunscreen products only protect against UVB (the rays that cause burns) and not UVA (the rays that cause age spots and cancer). This means that although you may be avoiding an uncomfortable burn, you are still being exposed to dangerous cancer causing rays. There are some expensive products out there that claim to protect against UVA, but due to an FDA loophole that allows any products that block out 20 percent of UVA rays to state that it “protects against UVA rays”, these claims are often bogus.

Furthermore, some of the compounds in commercial sunscreen have been found to be very dangerous, even carcinogenic. Vitamin A, for example, and ingredients related to Vitamin A are unstable and have been show to increase the rate at which malignant cells multiply when used on the skin and exposed to extreme heat. The FDA has funded and supervised multiple studies over the last decade that prove ingredients related to Vitamin A can be carcinogenic when used in sunscreen, but the FDA knowingly withheld the results of these studies for years until consumer protection groups such as Environmental Working Group published their own (and very damming) studies of sunscreen and pressured the FDA to release its own (also very damming) data. Other chemicals commonly found in sunscreen, such as Oxybenzone, penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream disrupting the body’s hormones. And many others have yet to be studied at all. If you do choose to use sunscreen (some of us absolutely must), safer options include organic, mineral based products containing nano free zinc oxide or titanium.

So be aware, and take good care. Remember that an annual skin cancer screening by a licensed dermatologist is a must for all adults. There are a number of dermatologists who offer free or low cost skin cancer-screening clinics. You can go online and find a clinic at a time and location that works for you. Get screened, eat right, cover up and live your life. Enjoy the summer! I’ll see you at the beach.

Categories: Beach, Everyday Living

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