Let the Sun Shine in but ...Carefully | Opinion

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Summer is nearly upon us, and with it, the annual question: “How much sun is too much sun?”

When you think of summer, do you picture vacations, barbecues, outdoor fun and sunshine? I know I do.

And this is FLORIDA!

Sunshine, in particular, has many benefits for our physical and mental health. Among other things, the sun enables our bodies to produce vitamin D (which improves the strength and overall health of our bones and helps our immune system fight off infections) and promotes good mental health by naturally boosting serotonin levels. For humans, the sun is a crucial part of maintaining our health and wellness.

Living in New York, I suffered from the " winter blues" at the end of the summer I would slump into depression until a doctor told me to seek sunny shores. It did the trick.

Alas, sunshine doesn’t always bring us joy. It can also cause serious pain and negativity, which ranges from the relatively mild (wrinkles, skin discoloration) to the potentially deadly (namely: melanoma).

The sun poses a conundrum: How do we get enough sunshine to stay healthy while also minimizing the risk of UV damage and skin cancers? It’s confusing, but here are five essential tips for maximizing the benefits of sunshine while minimizing the risks.

SPF, SPF, SPF!

Anytime you’re in the sun (including driving or riding in a car), the CDC recommends wearing broad spectrum sunscreen that is SPF 15 or higher. Apply sunscreen on all exposed body parts. Sunscreen should be applied 15 minutes before going outside, and it needs to be reapplied every two hours or sooner if you’re swimming or sweating profusely. Sunscreen remains effective for up to three years, so check the label to make sure what you’re using is not expired.

Stick to the shade between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The sun’s rays are strongest for four hours each day, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sticking to the shade or staying inside during that time will reduce your sun exposure. If you are a fan of hikes, outdoor walks, picnics or any other outdoor activity, try to plan these activities for the early morning, late afternoon or early evening.

Clothing: SPF clothes, hats, sunglasses

Sunscreen offers significant protection from the sun, but it does not completely shield you. It also works best when paired with other sun protection methods, like a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and long sleeves or pants. You can even invest in clothing that is specifically designed to protect you from the sun. Look for clothes with a high Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF), which is the clothing version of SPF.

Know your melanoma risk

Melanoma can strike anyone of any age, race, ethnicity or gender. So we should all take care to protect our skin and be aware of the warning signs. But there are certain factors that raise your risk of developing this skin cancer so you should be especially vigilant if you have multiple risk factors, like a large number of moles, pale skin, blue eyes or a history of severe, blistering sunburns.

Get your vitamin D from the sun when possible

Remember how we talked about all the lovely benefits of the sun at the beginning of this newsletter? Avoiding the sun entirely will rob you of crucial health benefits like strengthened bones and improved mood. Experts now recommend you get about 10-15 minutes of daily sun exposure directly on your skin. Multiple studies have found that vitamin D supplements are less effective than getting vitamin D from sunshine, but check with your dermatologist to determine the amount of sun exposure that is safe for you.

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