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Be sun savvy this summer

On the nutrition and health side, exposure to sunlight helps our body manufacture some vitamin D. However, according to some studies, we need only about 15 minutes of sun exposure without sunscreen twice a week to make enough vitamin D.

Adequate vitamin D helps build and maintain strong bones, plus it may help protect us from heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Many people are deficient in vitamin D, especially during our long winter months when standing outdoors for 15 minutes is not very practical.

Few foods naturally contain vitamin D. Some that do are salmon, tuna and eggs. Fortified foods, such as milk, some types of orange juice, yogurt and cereal, also provide vitamin D.

As we enjoy the warmth of the summer sun and stock up on vitamin D, we also need to take a few precautions. Try this true/false quiz:

1. True or false: You can get sunburned on a cloudy day.

2. True or false: Vehicle windows do not block the rays of the sun.

3. True or false: The majority of people diagnosed with melanoma are white men more than the age of 50.

All these statements are true. While everyone is at risk for skin cancer, some people are at a higher risk. If you use a tanning bed, you are at higher risk for skin cancer. Tanning beds are on the list of “known carcinogens,” according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Having a family history of skin cancer, lots of moles or freckles, fair skin, blue or green eyes and/or naturally blonde, red or light-brown hair also puts you at a higher risk. If you do not use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30, you are at a higher risk for skin cancer.

Just one severe sunburn doubles your risk of developing skin cancer. That is why covering up in the sun is so important. Hats with three-inch brims all the way around, long-sleeved shirts, sunglasses and sunscreen are a must.

Be sure to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen 20 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every two hours. You also need to reapply your sunscreen after sweating, getting wet or towel drying.

Be sure to do regular self-skin exams and remember “ABCD.” Look for “asymmetrical” spots, “borders” that are irregular and a “colour” that is uneven or that has changed. Look for moles or suspicious spots with a “diameter” larger than the size of a pencil eraser.

Be sun savvy. Protect yourself from skin cancer. Visit for more sun-safe tips.

About the author


Julie Garden-Robinson is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.

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