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Sunshine: The Benefits and the Risks

The summer months have arrived, many of us are off on our holiday’s hoping for a huge dose of sunshine and relaxation.

The sun is vital providing many benefits for both physical and mental health. We all feel so much better when the sun is shining. It boosts our production of serotonin - the happy hormone which helps to promote feelings of well being and happiness and improving our mood. It also means that it boosts our vitamin D levels essential for a happy healthy body.

Vitamin D production supports:

Bone health - Sun exposure is crucial for calcium absorption in the body. Adequate exposure can help prevent conditions like rickets and osteoporosis.

Immune system - Vitamin D plays a vital role with our immunity helping to reduce the risk of autoimmune disease and the risk of infection.

Blood pressure - The sun can help to lower blood pressure by triggering the release of nitric oxide in the skin and can help improve blood flow and dilate blood vessels. This can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Skin health - Controlled and moderate exposure can help treat skin conditions like acne, eczema and psoriasis. UV rays have anti inflammatory benefits which can improve skin health.

Sleep patterns - Natural light helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm., our internal clock that controls sleep-wake cycles. Sunlight exposure especially in the morning can help improve sleep quality.

Physical activity - When the weather is good and the sun is out its so much easier and enjoyable to engage in an outdoor activity. This of course offers so many benefits to our body as well as reducing stress levels.

Whilst the sun offers so many health benefits the rate of skin cancer has risen by nearly a third over the past decade. Overexposure to the sun can sadly have many negative effects. The ozone layer is depleting which has increased the amount of UV reaching the earth’s surface potentially increasing the risk of skin cancer. Melanoma is the most dangerous form often linked to intense exposure and sunburn. The most common is Basal Cell Carcinoma resulting from chronic sun exposure and another common type is Squamous Cell Carcinoma linked to cumulative sun exposure.

Skin cancer - Unprotected and prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun (UV rays) is a major risk for skin cancer. This type of radiation can lead to mutations and cancer.

Sunburn - We’ve probably all suffered from this. Its very easy to sit out for too long or not apply enough sunscreen. Severe burning can increase the risk of skin cancer and long term skin damage.

Premature aging - excessive sun exposure can accelerate the aging process of the skin which can lead to age spots, loss of elasticity and wrinkles.

Hyperpigmentation - can show up later on in life and I can vouch for that. Dark uneven patches that appear on the skin that are very challenging to treat.

Sun stroke - Rapid heartbeat, nausea, dizziness, diarrhoea. Very unpleasant.

Eye damage - UV radiation can increase the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, Without proper eye protection bright sunlight can cause both short term and long term damage.

However, by being mindful and sensible the positives can minimise the potential negative effects.

Shade - Don’t sunbathe during peak sunlight hours. Find shade.

Sunscreen - Apply it regularly not just first thing in the morning and think that that is enough protection, it isn’t. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen ideally with an SPF of 30 or 50. Re apply after extensive perspiration or swimming and make sure that you apply regularly during the day. Also apply a thick layer and massage throughly.

Clothing - Wear UV blocking sunglasses. A wide brimmed hat.Wear long sleeves if the sun is really intense.

Happy holidays everyone. Just like many things, enjoy in moderation.