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JODY HOLTON — Be smart with sunshine in the summertime

Summer is upon us, and the facts about getting some sun are somewhat confusing.

It seems like every week the results of a new study come out, “Sun is bad, cover up!” or “Sun is good, you need it!” What should you believe?

While too much of the sun’s warm rays can be harmful to your skin, the right balance can have lots of mood-lifting benefits. Sunlight and darkness trigger the release of hormones in your brain. Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin.

This is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused. At night, darker lighting triggers the brain to make another hormone called melatonin. This hormone is responsible for helping a person feel sleepy and go to sleep.

Getting anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes of sunlight on your arms, hands and face two to three times a week is enough to enjoy the vitamin D boosting benefits of the sun.

Exposure to the ultraviolet-B radiation in the sun’s rays causes a person’s skin to create vitamin D. The vitamin D made thanks to the sun plays a big role in bone health.

Low vitamin D levels have been linked to rickets in children and bone-wasting diseases like osteoporosis (brittle/fragile) and osteomalacia (softening of the bones).

Although excess sunlight can contribute to skin cancers, a moderate amount of sunlight has cancer-preventive benefits. Those who live in areas with fewer daylight hours are more likely to have a number of cancers than those who live where there’s more sun during the day.

Sun exposure can treat several skin conditions for the right person. Doctors have recommended UV radiation exposure to treat psoriasis, eczema, jaundice and acne.

While light therapy isn’t for everyone, a dermatologist can recommend if light treatments will benefit your skin concerns.

Research studies have revealed preliminary links between sunlight as a potential treatment for a number of conditions. These include: rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, inflammatory bowel disease and thyroiditis.

However, while there are lots of good reasons to get sun, the sun’s rays do have ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The sun’s rays can penetrate the skin and damage cell DNA. This can lead to skin cancer.

Defining an excess amount of sun exposure depends upon your skin type and how direct the sun’s rays are. Fairer-skinned people typically get sunburned more quickly with sun exposure than others who are darker skinned.

Also, a person is more likely to get sunburned going outside when the sun’s rays are more direct. Dark-skinned people can get severe burns and skin cancer too. This usually takes place between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

If you’re going to be outside for more than a brief 15-minute period, it’s a good idea to protect your skin. You can do that by applying a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15.

Reapply often if you will be outside for a while. Wearing a protective hat and shirt can also help. Also, it is very important to protect your eyes from direct and reflective sunlight by wearing sunglasses. The older you are, the more important that eye protection is.

Please use common sense. Get a little sun, but remember you are not a muffin, don’t bake. Like my Mama always said, “moderation in all things.”

Enjoy that sunshine and stay healthy my friends.

Jody Holton writes about health for Port Arthur Newsmedia. She can be reached at jholton3@gt.rr.com.

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