Ah! Memorial Day. Summer. Time to stock up on sunscreen, right? A new study suggests maybe you shouldn't always be so vigilant in slathering on sunscreen before venturing outside.
While sunblock is a potent weapon in the battle to ward off skin cancer, there's a downside: a risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Nearly 1 billion people worldwide may have deficient or insufficient levels of vitamin D due to chronic disease and inadequate sun exposure related to sunscreen use, according to a clinical review published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.
"People are spending less time outside and, when they do go out, they're typically wearing sunscreen, which essentially nullifies the body's ability to produce vitamin D," Dr. Kim Pfotenhauer, assistant professor at Touro University and a researcher on the study, said in a news release.
"While we want people to protect themselves against skin cancer, there are healthy, moderate levels of unprotected sun exposure that can be very helpful in boosting vitamin D," Pfotenhauer said.
Vitamin D is actually a hormone that the body produces when exposed to sunlight and vitamin D receptors can be found in almost every cell in the human body.
A vitamin D deficiency can result in bone pain, frequent fractures, unexplained fatigue, muscle weakness and difficulty thinking clearly. To prevent that, all it takes is spending five to 30 minutes in the sun twice a week sans sunscreen, since sunscreen decreases vitamin D production by 99%.
"You don't need to go sunbathing at the beach to get the benefits," Pfotenhauer said. "A simple walk with arms and legs exposed is enough for most people."