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Health Effects of Sun Exposure


What’s the solution?

While skin cancer (not to mention premature skin aging) is a very real danger, some experts—like Feelisch—say that avoiding the sun entirely may be an even bigger one. “Balancing beneficial with harmful effects of anything starts with the realization that there may be more to the beneficial side than previously considered,” he says. “Considering how humans evolved—being exposed to natural light for almost half of the day—sunlight can’t possibly be that bad, can it?”

Feelisch believes that increased rates of skin cancer are likely due to people “swinging between extremes” of spending most time indoors, then getting way too much sun on vacations and holidays. His suggestion for balancing it all? “Get as much sunshine as you can regularly, while avoiding getting a sunburn.”

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Dr. Rigel, on the other hand, takes a cautious approach—an approach that’s echoed by the American Academy of Dermatology and the World Health Organization. “You can safely get vitamin D from supplements, so why expose yourself to a known carcinogen when you don’t have to?” he asks. His advice is to play it safe: “Wear protective clothing, avoid the mid-day sun when UV rays are strongest, and regularly use sunscreen. Those three things will lower your risk of skin cancer, and allow you to enjoy your time outside.”

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