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A 21-year-old member asked:

Is sunlight always harmful?

17 doctor answers29 doctors weighed in
Dr. Tasleyma Sattar
Specializes in Family Medicine
Best in moderation: Sunlight is actually good for you, in moderation. Most skin cancers are caused by excessive sunlight exposure and sunburns. Moderate sunlight to hands and legs, three times a week, for 15 minutes at a time is very good for you. This will increase your vitamin d levels much faster than supplements would. Of course, if you have a history of skin cancer, it is best to use caution and apply sunscreen.
Dr. John Kemerer
Specializes in Family Medicine
Medications: If you have a photosensitive skin disease stay out of the sun. Read your medication labels to see if they cause reactions with the sun and if they do stay out of the sun.
Dr. Kenneth Cheng
Family Medicine 31 years experience
Dr. Kemerer brings up an excellent point as many medications can cause photosensitivity.
May 31, 2011
Dr. Kenneth Cheng
Family Medicine 31 years experience
Not always...: Sunlight is not always harmful, but excessive sun exposure does increase one's risk for skin cancer. Also, the exposure risk is cumulative (5 min. Here, 10 min. There, etc. All adds up.) sunlight, however, is important in converting the unusable dietary vitamin d to a useful form of vitamin d. The amount of sunlight needed for this, according to research, is from 8 minutes to 20 minutes per day.
Dr. Don W Hodson
Family Medicine 42 years experience
Sunbathers make note: Almost!? Sunlight is essential to convert vitamin d to it's active form and many people feel a certain amount of sunshine is needed to allow them a feeling of well being. We all know how good a dose of sunshine feels and it does in fact release endorphins (feel good hormones) . But.......Anything more than your skin type can absorb will cause damage and cancer, especially if you sunburn.
Dr. Cynthia Point
Specializes in Internal Medicine
No: Most people can have some sun exposure without harm. There are a few genetic conditions which make the skin very likely to be damaged by any ultraviolet exposure, and those, and people with those conditions can't be outdoors in daylight. If you are out in the sun, best time is early morning and late afternoon, and if it is midday, wear sunscreen, and cover up.
Dr. Theodore Cole
Specializes in Family Medicine
No: As usual, it's the dose that matters. In moderate amounts, sunlight is beneficial. Exposure that results in sunburn is harmful, and produces skin damage that can eventually result in skin cancers. Moderate exposures increase vitamin d levels. Don't fear the sun, but respect it.
Dr. Dean Giannone
Internal Medicine 25 years experience
Not completely: While we all know that sun exposure can contribute to skin cancer, uv radiation converts dietary vitamin d into its usable form, which along with calcium is important for bone health.
Dr. Andrew Carroll
Dr. Andrew Carrollanswered
Family Medicine 25 years experience
No: No, as a matter of fact, some sun exposure is essential to life! vitamin d is converted to its active form in your skin with some sun exposure. All that extra vitamin d you might be taking is useless without at least a little sun exposure. Sun exposure also helps to treat jaundice. Avoid sunburns and excessive repetitive sun exposure, especially if you have a tendency for skin cancer.
Dr. Scott Williamson
Specializes in Family Medicine
No: While too much sunlight can make skin cancers more likely, sunshine (as little as 10-30 minutes each day) is needed to activate vitamin d, an essential and (due to lack of sunshine, sunscreens and obesity) often deficient vitamin in your body. You can take vitamin d supplements, but why bother if you can get it free from the sun.
Dr. Paige Gutheil
Family Medicine 19 years experience
No: It is true that exposure to harmful uv rays in excess can be harmful, but safe sun exposure can be healthy. It is even necessary for adequate production of vitamin d by the body. Limiting sun exposure to non-peak hours of uv rays and a short period of time can help balance this.
Dr. Louis Cooper
Pediatrics 48 years experience
Talk to your doctor for guidance regarding age of your child and skin coloration.
Dec 28, 2014
Dr. Kathleen Cullen
Internal Medicine 9 years experience
No : Sunlight is not always harmful. Sunlight is required to turn cholesterol into vitamin d which is essential to bone health, mental health, blood sugar regulation, immune health , and cancer prevention.
Dr. Jalal Zuberi
Pediatrics 45 years experience
The chemical cholecalciferol (Vit D3), the vit D precursor, is similar to cholesterol.
Dec 28, 2014
Dr. Latisha Smith
Wound care 38 years experience
Not always: Our bodies need sunlight to make vitamin d. Also sunlight helps elevate out mood and helps with establishing our sleep cycle. Psoriasis is a skin condition that is actually made better with uv light. Sunbathing is what makes sunlight harmful. The uv rays can lead to skin cancer. If you want to enjoy the healthful aspects of sunlight and avoid skin cancer use lots and lots of sunscreen.
Dr. Kenneth Adler
Family Medicine 40 years experience
It depends.: Lots of skin exposure to sunlight, especially during mid-day hours and at lower latitudes can increase your risk for skin cancers. However, judicious exposure to sunlight can help a number of conditions like psoriasis, vitamin d deficiency, acne and seasonal affective disorder.
Dr. Visalakshi Vallury
Family Medicine 24 years experience
Not always...: Exposure to sunlight is necessary to the production of vitamin d, sleep cycle regulation, mood regulation. It can be helpful in improving psoriasis. Excessive exposure to sunlight can be harmful and be associated with development of skin cancer. The uv index is an easy way to assess risk of damage form sun exposure. The uv index for your location can be found at http://www.Epa.Gov/sunwise/uvindex.
Dr. Karen Han
Dermatology 23 years experience
Not always: To add to dr. Deluise's response, current estimates are that one in five americans will develop skin cancer in his or her lifetime. This highlights the importance of sun protection. The following link nicely summarizes the reasons to obtain vitd from diet. http://www.aad.org/media-resources/stats-and-facts/prevention-and-care/vitamin-d/vitamin-d.
Dr. Karen Han
Dermatology 23 years experience
Appropriate exposure: To add to d deluise's response, appropriate amount of sun exposure is 5-30min twice weekly on face arms and legs without sunscreen between 10am and 3pm. The length of time depends on your skin type, and how intense the sun is. Expose just long enough without getting red or sunburned. This can mean 5 min in the hot southern california sun, or 15 min on a foggy afternoon in san francisco.
Dr. Mary Ann Block
A Verified Doctoranswered
A US doctor answeredLearn more
Not always...: We need sunlight. Sunlight helps our bodies make vitamin d. Too much sun can increase the risk of skin cancers.

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Last updated Mar 14, 2019
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