Do Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun?
Conventional wisdom shown as flawed as scientists rethink sun exposure.
If you ask most people when the sun’s UV rays are most harmful to your skin and eyes, they’ll likely say 11am to 3pm. But they’d be wrong.
Studies have now shown that previous conventional wisdom is incorrect. Whether it’s due to climate change or that science has become more advanced, the new danger times for sun exposure are now between 10am and 4pm – two whole hours longer than previously thought.
So to limit the risk of skin cancer and sun damage related eye-diseases, it’s best to avoid prolonged exposure to UVA and UVB rays during these key times. However, for eye health, the extremes of this range (10am and 4pm) are actually the most dangerous.
But what about Vitamin D?
If you’ve been keeping up with your science news you’ll probably have read about a new study that shows avoiding the sun is worse for your health than smoking.
According to the study, the life expectancy of those who avoided sun exposure was reduced by about 2 years compared to those who regularly sun bathed, even though they had a higher risk of skin cancer.
In addition, non-smokers who stayed out of the sun had a life expectancy similar to smokers who had the highest level of sun exposure.
The culprit, apparently, is lack of Vitamin D. In fact, a huge and growing amount of research has now demonstrated that avoiding sun exposure has created an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency, with an estimated 50% of the general population and up to 80% in infants deficient in vitamin D.
Low levels of D3 are now known to play a major role in the development of some pretty nasty degenerative diseases. Plus, those deficient in vitamin D have twice the rate of death and a doubling of risk for many diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
Bizarrely, it’s also been suggested that getting more vitamin D from the sun may even minimize your risk of getting cutaneous (i.e. skin) malignant melanomas (the most serious form of skin cancer that accounts for 75% of skin cancer deaths).
What’s even more confusing is that new research suggests the best time to get optimal vitamin D is to expose yourself to the sun’s rays at noon each day.
So even though staying out of the sun at midday means decreasing your risk of sunburn, it actually increases your risk of cancer. Who knew?
Don’t rush to sunbathe before you read this, though.
Yes, the new wisdom suggests you should catch some rays around midday three days a week to optimise your Vitamin D production and protect yourself from a wide range of acute and chronic diseases.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be smart about it.
1. The good thing about going out in the midday sun is… you only need a short exposure time – around 15 to 30 minutes – because the UVB is so much more intense. But you’ll also need to expose a large swathe of skin (not just your face and hands) without sunscreen to get the proper effect.
2. The bad thing about going out in the midday sun is… it only takes around 15 minutes of direct sunlight striking your eyes to damage them and open yourself up to a whole range of degenerative eye problems, that may ultimately include blindness.
So what’s the answer? WEAR YOUR UV PROTECTIVE SUNGLASSES, PEOPLE.
It’s that simple – you can have your (sunshine) cake and eat it, too. Just keep your exposure time to 15-30 minutes and wear sunglasses while you do it.
Want to know how to pick the right sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays? Be sure to read our guide on polarized lenses to suit your situation.