Fry Now. Pay Later: When the Sun Tans Your Hide

how-to-choose-sunscreenWhen you step back and take a good look at the frenzied journeys and unfounded fads that have caught the attention of the American public it makes some sense out of our sometimes senseless antics.  If a little is good then a lot must be great can be flawed logic, and the opposite can be just as true.

A case in point is the way that some within society have morphed from being sun worshippers to sun haters.  The Food and Drug Administration must have thought the sun was ultra-violent when it labeled ultraviolet sun rays as carcinogens.  This struck a chord of fear and created a sun-related paranoia focused on sunlight.

Many parents now anoint their children with sun protection more frequently than they change the baby’s diapers. While it is true that the sun can be deadly to some, the “Fry Now. Pay Later” campaign of the American Cancer Society might be a bit overzealous.

This is a care and careless paradox:  Over-protection can lead to under-production.  Without enough sun exposure, your body can become vitamin D deficient.  A deficiency of this vital vitamin has been linked with a number of serious health concerns—even cancer.

I became more attune to this subject a week ago today.  After a visit to the skin clinic at the VA, the doctor treated several places on my face, and gave me some advice:

  • Get rid of your baseball cap and start wearing a broad brim hat.
  • When outside either wear a long-sleeved shirt or apply a liberal coating of potent sunscreen.

Michael F. Holick is a professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics at Boston University Medical Center, and he says:

  1. Melanomas cause more than 9,000 deaths each year, but they account for only 5 percent of skin cancer (most occur on the least sun-exposed parts of the body).
  2. The Institute of Medicine recommends that children over the age of 1 and adults up to 70 should receive 600 units daily of vitamin D.
  3. Holick advises his patients to go out in the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.  while covering the face and hands with sunscreen but leaving other parts of the body exposed (very little if any vitamin D is produced outside those hours).

Research has found that the sun’s UVA rays produce nitric oxide. Holick explains that, “This causes smooth muscle relaxation, leading to a widening of blood vessels and lower blood pressure. It improves circulation in the skin, thereby enhancing wound healing, especially in patients with diabetes. It also causes gastrointestinal smooth muscle relaxation and is involved in learning and memory. UVA radiation causes immune suppression, decreasing inflammatory skin conditions and allergic asthma.”

I’m not sure if a person is to take the bad with the good or the good with the bad, but Holick went on to say: “It would be wrong and foolish, of course, to say that sun exposure isn’t dangerous. Just as sunlight triggers the crucial production of vitamin D, it also sets in motion negative processes. Excessive exposure to the sun damages DNA in skin cells, which in turn can cause nonmelanoma skin cancer.”

While sun exposure can be beneficial as well as harmful to your body, a lack of Son exposure, spiritually, is downright deadly.  Jesus said, “God gave us eternal life; the life is in his Son. So, whoever has the Son, has life; whoever rejects the Son, rejects life (I John 5:12).”

As I wrote this article, I kept thinking of my little buddy, Peyton.  I pray for him every day.  He is afflicted with Xeroderma pigmentosum (XP).  At present there is no cure for this rare disease that strikes only 1:1,000,000 in the United States.  If your child is numbered among the only, it can be a lonely journey as you fight for funding to pay for research to help your child.  Please join me in praying for all the XP kids.    

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