Sunlight can be a two-edged sword for your health.
Gellinger / Pixabay – Sunlight can be a two-edged sword for your health.

Recently, researches and scientists were able to inject a single electron and proton into a damaged DNA molecule. They watched the transformation at the atomic level – the DNA repaired itself almost instantaneously. How did this happen? The enzyme, photolyase, provided the required proton and electrons. Scientists have been aware of the ability of enzymes to repair cellular damage, but this was the first time they could actually observe it at the atomic level.

Photolyase captures photons from the sunlight. Each captured photon has enough energy to react with the photolyase and provide one electron and one proton directly to the damaged DNA molecule by the process of photoreactivation. The DNA literally repairs itself within a few billionths of a second. How the photolyase enzyme knows where to direct the available protons and electrons is still not known, but the process has been observed. Interestingly enough, after the repair, the DNA helix casts out an electron and a proton back to the photolyase.

The bad news is that your body does not contain photolyase. Some bacteria, fungi and animals have photolyase; however, humans do not. Some sunscreens contain photolyase. Moreover, your body does have the tools to compete with photolyase to repair DNA strands damaged by ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet light can damage your skin’s DNA. Ultraviolet light has been linked to melanoma, a skin cancer. Exposure to ultraviolet light is a two-edged sword. The more exposure you have to the sun, the less likely you will develop skin cancer – sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Sunscreens allow greater exposure to the sun, while preventing some of the damage done by the ultraviolet light. However, newer sunscreen contains carcinogenic ingredients that might be worse that the cure. Statistics show that indoor workers are at a higher risk of skin cancer than outdoor workers – or those who protect themselves with sunscreens.

Ultraviolet light is made up of two different kinds of sun rays – UVA and UVB. UVA rays from the sun penetrate your skin deeper and can cause skin aging and cancer. UVA rays can penetrate through glass and heavy cloud cover, whereas UVB rays cannot. UVB rays are required for you skin to produce vitamin D. The vast majority of the general population living in the United States is deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to stomach, reproductive, breast, colon, endometrial, esophageal, ovarian, bladder, gallbladders, pancreatic, prostate, rectal and renal cancers. When vitamin D is produced by your skin through exposure to direct sunlight (with no sunscreen or sunblock), it is directed by your body to those places where UVA damage can occur. Isn’t our body a great mechanism? It becomes your built-in cancer prevention system.

It’s not all of one thing and not enough of another. It’s a combination of two things – exposure to UVA rays and deficiency of vitamin D. Vitamin D can reduce your risk of skin cancer by 60%. I have red hair (or did at one time) and a very fair complexion. I see my dermatologist twice a year and routinely take preventive measures to reduce or eliminate any potential skin problems. I do not advocate going out and laying in the sun just to get more vitamin D – that is a somewhat irresponsible approach to your health. If you get sunburned, you have damaged your skin.

The best time to get your sun exposure is during the middle of the day (10 am to 2 pm). Why? Because, that is when the UVB rays are most potent. In the early morning and late afternoon the UVB rays are filtered out and you will get exposed to more UVA rays. Exposure means a very, very slight shade of pink – not a sun burn. For someone with a light complexion as I, that might be only a few minutes (no more than 20 minutes at most). The darker your skin, the longer time you need. Vitamin D builds up your body’s immune system to provide the natural defense you need to combat a variety of diseases. Staying out of the sun entirely actually raises your risk of certain types of cancer because of your deficiency of vitamin D.

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