But now science says, not spending time under the sun causes vitamin D deficiency. And somewhat ironically, running low on vitamin D puts you at risk of, skin cancer, as well as several other conditions.
Doomed if you do, doomed if you don’t.
The balanced approach
The anti-sun message has caused many people to avoid the sun at ALL COSTS.
For some, this means just simply staying indoors, for others, a trip outdoors is always preceded by layering up with a thick layer of specially designed sun blocking cream .
The pro-vitamin D message is encouraging people to spend time under the sun. But the big question, still remains, how to get the balance right.
Avoid being burned
You don’t need a pHD to figure out you should avoid being turned into a glowing tomato.
Sun burn is excruciatingly painful when it happens and turning the top layer of skin into scorched flesh on a routine basis, is likely to leave you looking like a dried out wrinkled old prune. Burning also ups the ante that the DNA within one of the skin cells is damaged beyond repair, so that it becomes cancerous.
So don’t spend hours in the sun without some kind of protection !
The sun is typically at its hottest around midday – so this is the time you should be most weary of exposing yourself.
Morning sun is better
So sun tanning slap bang in the middle of the day is probably not wise – so your choice is limited to early morning or late afternoon exposures.
Logic suggests there is not a whole lot of difference – but a study conducted by researchers from University of North Carolina, suggests morning sun may be best.
The divergence has nothing to do with the sun. The sun’s intensity is pretty similar at both ends of the day, the difference is in your biology.
Mice sun tanning
The researchers persuaded mice to forgo their nightly activities and do a little sun tanning, by exposing them to UV radiation.
Some mice “sun tanned’ in the morning, while others enjoyed their dose of artificial sun in the afternoon. The level of radiation was identical, but the outcome was very different.
The morning “sun tanners” ended up with significantly more skin cancer than the afternoon tanners.
Sun tanning round the circadian clock
The mouse circadian clock runs opposite to the human clock, because mice are nocturnal i.e. creatures of the night, and humans, officially anyway, are creatures of the day (diurnal).
The results need to be turned around to accommodate the human circadian clock so : -
- Mornings are bad for mice, but good for humans.
- Afternoons are good for mice, but bad for humans.
The researchers speculate the reason for the difference is the presence of a protein called XPA. XPA is part of the system which helps repair the DNA damage caused by radiation, XPA production is regulated by the body’s built in circadian rhythm.
When XPA levels are at their highest, protection from UV damage is maximal.
Visit the “tanning salon” in the mornings only
So if you plan on lying about in the sun or are using a little artificial sun, courtesy of a tanning booth, try to do it in the morning.
PS. Also, remember your body’s beauty therapists are only active at night so ensure you get your beauty sleep.Control of skin cancer by the circadian rhythm. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2011) Shobhan Gaddameedhi, Christopher P. Selby, William K. Kaufmann, Robert C. Smart, Aziz Sancar
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