Myth 4: I need lots of sun exposure to create vitamin D
Vitamin D is a contentious topic in modern medicine and something we’ve blogged about regularly. It’s known to play a role in strengthening bones (with low levels known to contribute to rickets and osteomalacia) and has been linked to the prevention of various diseases, including certain cancers. We know that exposure to sunlight is an efficient way for the body to produce vitamin D, however the UV radiation in sunlight also causes sunburn, skin cancer, premature skin aging and other damage.
For most people, the incidental sunlight exposure they receive during their regular day-to-day activities, such as getting the shopping from the car or waiting for the bus, is sufficient to create the vitamin D their body needs. This is particularly true for fair-skinned people, for whom the length of exposure time it takes for their skin to produce vitamin D is very brief indeed. In cases where vitamin D levels are inadequate, dermatologists recommend taking an oral supplement as opposed to deliberately exposing skin to sunlight for extended periods of time due to the associated health hazards. Individuals who are concerned about their vitamin D levels should consult a doctor for testing and vitamin D supplementation.
Myth 5: Having dark skin means I won’t get skin cancer
While it’s true that individuals with darker skin have a much lower rate of skin cancer compared to those with lighter skin, having darker skin does not make you immune to skin cancers.
Dark skin is coloured so because it contains more melanin, a pigment in the skin which can absorb and reflect sun rays and protect skin from damage. As a result, individuals with darker skin are less prone to skin cancer. Despite this, research has shown that melanomas (the most lethal form of skin cancer) in individuals with darker skin can be more difficult to diagnose and frequently prove more deadly; since they are often caught later, once they have developed beyond effective treatment.
All skin types needs protection from sunlight, and regular self-checking of your skin is an important tool for assessing your own health. If you notice changes on your skin, visit a doctor as soon as possible – early detection is vital for the successful treatment of skin cancers. Symptoms of skin cancer include the growth a new mole or changes to an existing one (variation in shape, size and colour, as well as itching or bleeding).
Further reading on Clinuvel.com
‘dinosaur rock 2′ posted to Flickr.com by bobcat rock on April 28, 2009 <http://www.flickr.com/photos/bobcatrock/3483412743/>