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Beacon of HOPE Wellness Committee: Sunlight exposure and skin health

March 6, 2019
By Hedy Setyadi, MD, FAAD, Board Certified Dermatologist , Pine Island Eagle

Living in Southwest Florida means beautiful, clear, sunny skies on most days. This wonderful blessing draws domestic and international tourists and seasonal residents every year. The abundant sunlight comes with the responsibility of protecting oneself from ultraviolet light which otherwise induces premature aging and skin cancers. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization have identified ultraviolet light as a proven human carcinogen.

How should you protect yourself? Seek shade when you are outdoors. Try to limit sun exposure to before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. Wear a wide-brimmed hat (ideally 3 inches or greater), large UV protection factor of 30 or more and reapply every two hours. Do not forget to reapply sunscreen every time after swimming, toweling off, significant sweating. In these cases, consider choosing sunscreen that is water resistant (either 40 or 80 minutes are available in the U.S.). Contrary to what some of us may believe, sun protection is necessary even during cloudy days. The cloud cover does not filter out harmful ultraviolet rays which are also reflected by the materials around you, such as water, snow/ice and the pavement.

Do not skimp on sunscreen. It takes 1 oz. (a shot glass full) for the entire body. Most people only use a quarter to a half of that amount. Inadequate amount of sunscreen use makes the actual SPF significantly lower than what is stated on the bottle. The SPF labeling assumes that adequate amount of sunscreen is used. Remember to apply sunscreen on all sun exposed areas - do not forget to also include your ears, neck, hands and toes/feet areas easily forgotten when having fun in the sun.

For those of us who loathe sunscreen and are looking for ways to reduce areas needing sunscreen application, there is UV protective clothing that you can use to cover the skin. These are marked UPI (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) then a number. UPF 50+ provides great ultraviolet protection.

At this point, you may think, how do you get vitamin D? The safest way of doing so is through supplementation and diet, not through sun exposure. Examples of vitamin D containing foods are fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel and salmon, enriched milk, fortified orange juice and eggs. Besides, even with excellent sun protection, your skin still receives some ultraviolet rays and helps your body produce vitamin D especially in Florida. On the other hand, excessive amount of sun exposure does not equal adequate vitamin D level. A study that was conducted in Hawaii showed half of the significantly sun exposed individuals studied were still vitamin D deficient.

As a part of our commitment to educate the community, I will be conducting a complimentary community health lecture at the Beacon of HOPE on Thursday, March 7, at 9:15 a.m. The topic is "Skin Cancers and How to Protect Yourself." Hope to see you there.

Call the Beacon for more information at 239-2835123. The Beacon is located at 5090 Doug Taylor Circle, St. James City.



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