Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"What's the right amount of sunshine to get in a day?"
I am trying to figure out how long to spend in the sun to get the appropriate amount of vitamin D. I have heard a huge range of estimates. Some people say wear sunblock while some say that sunblock actually keeps you from getting Vitamin D. What is the right way to do this?
You have just touched on a very active debate between physicians. As you pointed out, sunlight is important for the production of vitamin D, an essential factor in our body's calcium metabolism and bone development (among many other things). On the other hand, the sunlight's UV radiation is known to be the cause of the skin cancers squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. Thus, there needs to be some balance between getting too much sun (and thus UV) and too little. The answer will depend on many factors including your skin color, the presence of absence of any suspicious skin lesions, your personal past medical history, your family's medical history, and your place of residence. Your doctor's recommendation will also depend on your diet (amount of vitamin D you get through food sources). Because this decision involves all aspects of your health, your best bet is to pose this question to your primary care physician (family doctor or internal medicine doctor). If you are light skinned, most likely using sunblock in certain situations will be an important part of your health. Keep in mind that your doctor's recommendations will possibly change as more research is done and we know more about vitamin D.
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