Sun Sense for Summer Days

Sun Protection

The good weather's finally here, and after a long Illinois winter, we're all eager to get out in the sun and fresh air.

Spending time outdoors is part of a healthy, active life.  With a few simple precautions, you can enjoy tennis, hiking, gardening, running, swimming and more while minimizing your risk of developing skin cancer.

The American Cancer Society's guidelines are simple: Slip! Slop! Slap! Wrap!®

  • Slip on a shirt or other cover-up clothing.
  • Slop on the sunscreen - SPF 15 or more.
  • Slap on a hat to protect your face, neck, ears and other sensitive areas.
  • Wrap on a pair of sunglasses to protect eyes.

Of course, some active sports may call for a sport shirt or swimsuit rather than long sleeves. What's important is that you limit your total exposure to the sun - since the damaging effects of UV rays accumulate over time. Reapply sunscreen often and take frequent breaks in the shade.  Putting on a cover-up when you're resting will help, too.

Vitamin D and cancer prevention - a possible link?
In recent years, questions have arisen about sun exposure and vitamin D, which some researchers believe can protect against certain forms of cancer. 

Vitamin D is often called “the sunshine vitamin” because our bodies produce it naturally when we're exposed to the sun. We can also receive vitamin D through the foods we eat or by taking vitamin supplements.

Studies have shown what may be a link between vitamin D3 - also known as cholecalciferol - and lower risks of developing and dying from colon cancer. Researchers say the vitamin may also have protective effects against breast, pancreatic and esophageal cancers.

So does getting out in the sun actually reduce our cancer risks?  

Len Lichtenfeld, MD, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, has called for more in-depth research.  “There are too many studies with too much data to ignore the suggestion that vitamin D may reduce the risk of developing some cancers,” he says. 

At the same time, Dr. Lichtenfeld reminds us that the risk of developing skin cancer from excess sun exposure is proven and real.

Until more studies are done, he recommends following the Society's sun protection guidelines while getting your vitamin D from foods and supplements. Fish, especially salmon and mackerel, are one rich source. A 3.5 ounce serving of either fish provides 90% of the recommended daily value for most adults. Sardines, tuna, liver and eggs are also good choices.

To learn more about vitamin D and cancer, visit Dr. Len's Cancer Blog.