Over 1 million cases of skin cancer are detected every year in the United States. Skin cancer is the direct result of genetic predisposition and total sun exposure. Approximately 80% of one's sun exposure occurs before the age of 21. Unfortunately, by the time most of us are mature enough to realize the importance of sun protection, it is almost too late. That is why it is so important for parents and grandparents to protect children from harmful ultraviolet sun exposure and teach them the importance of sun protection. Sun protection should start at 6 months of age. Dr. Crutchfield can discuss with you the most promising strategies to protect you and your loved ones from the harmful effects of the sun.
Sun Tanning, Vitamin D and Good Bone Health
by Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD
Board Certified Dermatologist
Associate Professor of Dermatology, University of Minnesota Medical School
Sunbathing is a terrible way to get vitamin D. Vitamin D is a necessary nutrient participating in the formation of strong bones. Fortunately, a well balanced diet in the U.S. provides an appropriate amount of vitamin D for the vast majority of people. If there is a question, I recommend supplementing with a daily multi-vitamin that contains 400 international units of vitamin D. Other readily available sources include vitamin fortified milk and oily fish such as salmon and tuna. The amount of sunlight required to produce the vitamin D we require for good bone health is the amount of sunlight that shines on skin the size of both palms for about 15 minutes per week. Most people get this incidental dose just walking outside, or back and forth from you car to work/errands. One can also get this exposure through the glass in an automobile. To tell people that sunbathing is good for bone health gives people an unrestricted 'license to tan' (especially teens) when they are not properly educated on how very little sunlight is required for the vitamin D they need. This will ultimately lead to many skin cancers in the future. Telling people to sun tan for good bone health is unnecessary, inappropriate and irresponsible.
In summary, sun exposure is bad. If one is worried about vitamin D intake, supplement with fortified milk, salmon, tuna, or daily multi-vitamins.
What's the difference between a sunscreen and a sunblock?
A sunblock is a physical barrier that blocks out the sun. Usually, lotions contain small particles of metal that light cannot penetrate. It is very much like putting a thick umbrella over you; it will completely block out the sun. A sunscreen is a topical lotion that has materials in it that absorb sunlight but not perfectly. Very much like holding up a thick screen, it will absorb lot of the light but not all of it and some will come through. Also, sunscreens, because they are not a physical block but are more of a chemical absorbant for sunlight, need to be reapplied on a regular basis, especially if one is either swimming or perspiring. They also need to be applied approximately 30 minutes before sun exposure because they take approximately 20 minutes to set up to their most effective value in the skin. It is also important to have an SPF of 15 or higher and also a sunscreen that contains UVA (ultraviolet A) protection.
Dr. Crutchfield recommends the following helpful and outstanding links:
Dr. Crutchfield's United Hospital Sun Protection Article
American Academy of Dermatology: Sun Protection for Children
American Academy of Dermatology: Sunscreens
American Academy of Dermatology: Darker side of Tanning
American Academy of Dermatology: The Sun and your Skin
American Academy of Dermatology: Ultraviolet index
Dangers of Tanning: No Tan is a Safe Tan
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Demonstrating his education, experience, and commitment to providing patients with the highest quality medical & cosmetic dermatologic care.
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1185 Town Centre Drive, Suite 101
Eagan, MN 55123 USA
Phone: (651) 209-3600 Fax: (651) 209-3601
Hours: Monday-Friday 8am-5pm
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