Growing up I remember my dad lived to sit in the sun, all summer long. He almost never had his shirt on in the yard (which of course was somewhat embarrassing to my younger self) and managed to keep a perpetual tan going all year just based on his summer dedication. As I got a little older, I began to enjoy summer afternoons spent by the pool with him, and later my friends. I liked to be tan, and I loved the feeling of just laying there absorbing the sun’s warmth, cooling off in the pool, and repeating. Lazy summer days by the pool were hard to beat.
Me at 15 in Fort Lauderdale
But then I began to worry (as I am prone to do). I didn’t want to get skin cancer, or wrinkles, or leathery skin like the old lady from “There’s something about Mary” (Remember her??) So somewhere in the late part of high school I started wearing SPF like it was my job, avoiding long days at the pool, and using self tanner lotion when I felt pale- which was often. I started to feel afraid of the sun. This continued until about 5 years ago when I learned through Mark’s Daily Apple that my understanding of how sun relates to melanoma and cancer in general was missing some really important pieces of the puzzle:
-Yes sunBURNING increases risk of skin cancer
-But, people who work outside and are exposed to many hours of sun per day are at LOWER than average risk for melanoma
-Melanoma most frequently shows up in people who work in offices (indoors) and it most commonly appears in places that are covered by clothes (strange right?)
-These office workers are also getting lots of UVA (cancer causing) sunlight through their office windows, but UVB rays (the source of vitamin D) gets filtered out.
– Vitamin D is actually VERY protective against cancers -they have even started using it as a cancer treatment. But you can’t get any natural vitamin D if you stay out of the sun or slather on sunscreen.
So to do with all this new information? Here’s what I am doing these days in an effort to balance my vitamin D levels AND avoid melanoma:
- I take vitamin D and Fermented cod liver oil all winter to help keep vitamin D levels high despite Minnesota winters. Get your levels checked by a doctor to see if you are deficient.
- I plan ahead when I take winter vacations. I go tanning for a couple weeks to build up a base (using the nicest beds if possible, the ones that are higher in UVB rays). I use mineral based sunscreen liberally while on vacation (see below) and wear a big sunhat. And I don’t feel the need to come back with super dark skin to PROVE I was somewhere warm. I’m ok with shorter sun exposure times and staying under the umbrella part of the day.
- I use sunscreen any time I think I might be at risk of burning, and I choose good quality mineral based sunscreens (listed below). The sunscreens you can buy at most stores are FULL of chemicals that are NOT good for our bodies or our cancer concerns.
- I get almost daily exposure to midday sun during the warm months (this midday sun is where you get the vitamin D) but keep it to shorter sessions and am careful to grab a hat and sunscreen if I need to be out longer. You only need 10-20 minutes to get enough vitamin D.
- I focus my thoughts on how HEALING the sun is for my body when I am in it. I don’t want to live in fear anymore and I am certain that this fear is bad for my health. I know some of you might be skeptical of this one, but I have seen way too many studies showing that what we expect and believe is what we experience. Quantum Physics. It’s some crazy stuff. If you believe the sun will give you cancer, I would recommend staying in the shade. And if you WANT to feel safe in the sun again, you can start to retrain your brain. Stop reading articles that support your old fears. (you already know that stuff anyway). Read about the benefits of sun and how to enjoy it safely. Do some energy work or hire me to help you clear those old limiting beliefs. You can learn to enjoy the sun again if you want to, but you have to release those fears that are buried deep inside you.
I’m happy to report that I am back to loving the sun, in smarter ways than my teen aged self did. I still love the way the warm sun feels on my skin, and let’s be honest, that golden glow is nice as well.