Vitamin D No Excuse to Soak up the Sun

The benefits of vitamin D have long been known. It's central for healthy bones and preventing some cancers.

A recent study boosted D's profile, saying people with a moderate vitamin D deficiency had a 60-percent increased risk of cardiovascular problems, and those with a severe deficiency a almost 100-percent risk.

Since we get vitamin D from the sun along with food, it seemed great news for those who like to catch some rays. But not so fast, says Judy Dowd, a physician's assistant with Cotton-O'Neil Dermatology. She says one source says all you need is five to 10 minutes of sun exposure on the hands, arm and face, two to three times a week, to get enough sun exposure to get the vitamin D you need and metabolize it usefully.

That's about a half hour total. Other health officials said up to two hours total a week is what's needed. But you also get vitamin D from food. Dowd says it is milk, cereals, breads and other foods are fortified with it and it's also in eggs and liver.

Dowd advocates minimal sun exposure, so that you get enough vitamin D without adding to the risk sun exposure poses. She says it can cause early signs of aging, like wrinkles. It can also impact the immune system and cause skin cancers.

Dowd says it's projected there'll be 1.3 million new cases of skin cancer in the next couple years. She says many health experts attribute this to the increased use of tanning beds. As for tanning beds and vitamin D, she says we get vitamin D from UVB rays, not UVA rays, and most tanning beds use only UVA rays.

The number of skin cancers continues to climb and successful treatment means catching it early. The Cotton-O'Neil Cancer Center will have free skin cancer screenings Saturday, April 26th. It's free, but you do have to register for an appointment by calling HealthConnections at 785-354-5225.


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