Sunlight: How much do I need?

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Sunlight: How much do I need?

Question

I'm concerned about skin cancer, so I avoid the sun as much as possible. But I also know that my body needs some sun to make vitamin D. So how much sun do I need?

Steven
Michigan

Answer

This is an insightful question. The short answer is that most people don't need significant amounts of sun exposure to enhance production of vitamin D, which is essential for healthy teeth and bones. Ten to 15 minutes of sun exposure twice a week to the face, arms, hands or back without sunscreen is usually enough. This should be followed by application of sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.

Although sunlight is a major source of vitamin D, it isn't the only source. Many foods are supplemented with vitamin D, such as fortified milk and cereals. Other food sources of vitamin D include salmon, herring, eggs and mushrooms. It's important for people with limited sun exposure to include good sources of vitamin D in their diets.

Sunscreens with an SPF of 8 or greater will block ultraviolet rays that produce vitamin D. But it's still important to routinely use sunscreen to help prevent skin cancer and other harmful consequences of excessive sun exposure.

Last Updated: 05/17/2005
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