There are ways to help patients both protect their skin and get enough vitamin D.
Most people look forward to summer all year long as the perfect time for picnics, outdoor barbeques, pool parties, and sunbathing at the beach. As much as we enjoy soaking up the rays during these activities, the truth is that we could be damaging our skin. Too much sun can lead to premature aging, sunburns, and skin cancer.
With care and consideration, chiropractors can help patients protect their skin from the elements and still enjoy all the fun outdoor activities that take place during summertime.
UVA and UVB rays
Sunlight produces long-wave ultraviolet A (UVA) and short-wave ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.1 UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB. But both types of UV light have been implicated in skin aging, skin cancer, and cataract formation in the eyes.2
Sun protection or exposure?
We’ve all heard that we should wear sunscreen and opt for a high sun protection factor (SPF). Lately, however, some researchers are arguing that high-SPF sunscreens are actually preventing our bodies from receiving enough vitamin D from exposure to natural sunlight’s UVB rays.3 Vitamin D deficiencies have been implicated in prostate, colon, and breast cancer, as well as bone diseases such as osteoporosis.
On one hand, the American Cancer Society states that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer.4 Furthermore, 3.5 million basal and squamous cell skin cancers are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. In 2015, there will be an estimated 73,000 cases of melanoma, which is a more dangerous form of cancer.
Still, sources of vitamin D other than natural sunlight abound. Although few foods contain vitamin D, supplements and certain fatty fish (such as salmon) can be excellent sources. In addition, some products can be enriched with vitamin D, including milk and orange juice.3
Which sunscreen provides the best coverage?
DCs should recommend sunscreens that not only are water resistant and have an SPF of 15 or higher, but also contain benzophenones (oxybenzone), cinnamates (octylmethyl cinnamate and cinoxate), sulisobenzone, salicylates, titanium oxide, zinc oxide, and avobenzone. Sunscreens with these ingredients give broad-spectrum coverage from both UVA and UVB rays to protect against sunburn and the possible development of skin cancers.2
Patients should make up for the lack of vitamin D from sun exposure by increasing their intake from other sources. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends 600 international units (IUs) per day for people between the ages of 1 and 70.5 Patients older than 70 should get 800 IUs of vitamin D.
As with many other things in life, the vitamin D versus sunscreen dilemma can best be solved with moderation. By taking advantage of alternative sources, patients can find a balance between adequate skin protection and vitamin D intake.
1 Skin Cancer Foundation. “Understanding UVA and UVB.” http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/uva-and-uvb/understanding-uva-and-uvb. Published Dec. 9, 2008. Accessed June 14, 2015.
2 “Summer skin care.” http://www.webmd.com/beauty/sun/how-your-skin-can-survive-summer?page=1. Published May 27, 2006. Accessed June 14, 2015.
3 Skin Cancer Foundation. “The D dilemma.” http://www.skincancer.org/healthy-lifestyle/vitamin-d/the-d-dilemma. Published Oct. 3, 2006. Accessed June 14, 2015.
4 American Cancer Society. “Skin cancer facts.” http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/sunanduvexposure/skin-cancer-facts. Revised April 13, 2015. Accessed June 14, 2015.
5 Skin Cancer Foundation. “Make vitamin D, not UV, a priority.” http://www.skincancer.org/healthy-lifestyle/vitamin-d/make-vitamin-d-not-uv-a-priority. Published Nov. 10, 2008. Accessed June 14, 2015.