Sunshine – good or bad for your health?

The answer to that question is tricky. Too much sun can damage your skin and even cause skin cancer. But your body benefits from the sun, too. Here’s what you need to know…

The good: vitamin D

It’s often called “the sunshine vitamin” because your body makes it when your skin is exposed to sunlight. You need vitamin D to absorb calcium, which helps make bones strong. Research has also shown that vitamin D may play a role in the prevention of conditions like osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure and even certain cancers.

You can increase your vitamin D levels by:

  • Spending five to 10 minutes in the sun two to three times a week. (P.S. Put on sunscreen after you get your few minutes!) Bonus tip: exercising while you’re outdoors has added benefits
  • Eating foods like salmon, egg yolks, and fortified milk and grains
  • Taking a vitamin D pill (ask your doctor, first). We know it can be hard to get time in the sun in Connecticut in the colder months.

The bad: skin cancer

It’s the most common cancer in the United States. And sun exposure is a major risk factor for skin cancer.  Use these tips to help keep yourself and your family safe:

  • Seek shade – try to stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. That’s when the sun’s rays are the strongest. Look for a shady spot if you must be outside.
  • Cover up – wear long sleeves, dark colors and a wide-brimmed hat to cover your skin.
  • Use sunscreen – choose a sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of at least 30. It’s also called a “broad-spectrum” sunscreen.
  • Apply and reapply – reapply at least every 2 hours, more often if you are swimming or sweating. And pay special attention to your face, ears, neck and arms.
  • Don’t forget your eyes! – Look for sunglasses that block UV rays and wear them every time you go outside. Do this all year round, even on cloudy days. Wraparound styles usually offer the most protection.

Sun safety quiz

So now you know the sun can do your body good, as long as you’re careful. Take the American Cancer Society’s short quiz to test your sun safety IQ.