Solidarity Blog

Solidarity House Call – The Sun: Friend or Foe?

Join me in ushering in the beautiful summer! If you are anything like me, you love this time of year. The weather is getting warmer, the days are getting longer, and I can almost smell BBQ on the grill as I picture friends and family enjoying one another’s company in the backyard. My wife and I had planned this year to hold off during Lent and wait until Easter to unpack the bathing suits and enjoy the pool. With four children in our home, ten years old down to four, they got the best of us. We couldn’t resist beginning our memories for the summer of 2019 by jumping into the pool just before Holy Week. Don’t get the wrong idea, even in Arizona the water was cold but nonetheless; when swimming begins, summer has begun!

We all can agree that summertime is filled with fun in the sun; but is the sun a friend or foe? I am here to tell you the answer is both. Most of us are aware of the dangers of too much direct UV light. I know these dangers well both as a physician, who has treated many skin cancer patients over my career, and personally, as a red head coming from generations of fair-skinned family members who have struggled with sun burns, rapidly aging skin, and skin cancer. All of these are risks of sun exposure and have been well documented in the scientific community starting in the late 19th century.1

When it comes to the sun, however, there is another side to this story. The sun is a gift and a vital part of our life-giving world. It is what brings warmth, light, and life. Human beings were not created to stay indoors, trapped behind walls, or stuck behind a desk. Exploring the outdoors and the moderate sun exposure it brings is a part of healthy living. The health benefits of the sun continue to be of ongoing interest to researchers and have many actions such as increasing vitamin D and other important messengers in the body.

Benefits to moderate sun exposure which have been explored include:

  1. Modulating the immune system 1
  2. Safeguarding against autoimmune disease (such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes) 1
  3. Protecting against cancers 1, 2
  4. Supporting gene repair 1
  5. Assisting bone health 1
  6. Resisting allergic reactions 1
  7. Elevating mood (increasing Serotonin, the feel-good hormone, when sun enters the eyes) 1,3
  8. Defending against metabolic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and insulin resistance 1, 4, 5
  9. Evidence of anti-infectious actions (anti-bacterial and anti-viral) 6
  10. Encouraging hormonal balance 7

So, how can we enjoy the blessings of summer sun while protecting ourselves and loved ones from the risks? A key to maximizing beneficial outcomes of sun exposure is having a diet filled with antioxidant foods.1 Summertime foods and drinks high in these researched antioxidants which support skin health are dark chocolate, red wine, cherries, kale, collard greens, cloves, parsley, celery, turmeric, coffee, pecans, blueberries, blackberries, green tea, and hibiscus tea. Sounds good to me; so, I encourage you to have a diet filled with these antioxidants.

A premiere antioxidant herb for protecting the skin is one that you may not have heard of before. I want to introduce you to polypodium. In a study performed in 2015 published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, polypodium at 240mg taken twice daily was a safe and effective means for reducing the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation on the skin, including skin cancer and aging.8 It is over the counter and you can find it on the internet by searching “polypodium.” Please ask your physician if it is right for you this summer.

And of course, don’t forget about the common sense protections against too much sun exposure which many of us are already familiar with but may not always put into practice. The following is adapted from the World Health Organization and are recommended to be routinely implemented.

  • Limit time in the midday sun: The sun’s UV rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Use shade wisely: Shade structures such as trees, umbrellas or canopies do not offer complete sun protection but are helpful.
  • Wear protective clothing: A hat with a wide brim offers good sun protection for eyes, ears, face, and the back of your neck. Sunglasses with adequate side protection that provide 99 to 100 percent UV-A and UV-B protection will greatly reduce eye damage from sun exposure. Tightly woven, loose fitting clothes will provide additional protection from the sun.
  • Use sunscreen: Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30+ and re-apply every two hours, or after working, swimming, playing or exercising outdoors.
  • Avoid tanning parlors: Sunbeds damage the skin and eyes and are best avoided entirely.

So be safe and don’t forget to delight in the sun as we welcome the season of summer and continue this crusade of healthy living where we discuss how you can have the healthiest family and be the healthiest you.

In gratitude,

Dr. John C. Oertle
Chief Medical Officer
Solidarity HealthShare


  1. Mead MN. “Benefits of sunlight a bright spot for human health.” Environ Health Perspect. 2008; 116:160-167.
  2. Joan M. Lappe, et al, “Vitamin D and Calcium Supplementation Reduces Cancer Risk: Results of a Randomized Trial,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2007; 85 (6); 1586-1591.
  3. Sansone RA, Sansone LA. Sunshine, serotonin, and skin: a partial explanation for seasonal patterns in psychopathology? Innov Clin Neurosci. 2013; 10: 20-24.
  4. Lips P. Vitamin D physiology. Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology. 2006; 92: 4–8.
  5. Wang L., Song Y., Manson J. E., et al. Circulating 25-Hydroxy-Vitamin D and risk of cardiovascular disease: A meta-analysis of prospective studies. Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. 2012;5(6):819–829.
  6. Beard J.A., Bearden A., Striker R. Vitamin D and the anti-viral state. J. Clin. Virol. 2011; 50(3): 194–200.
  7. Luk J, Torrealday S, Neal Perry G, Pal L. Relevance of vitamin D in reproduction. Hum. Reprod, (Oxford, England) 2012; 27: 3015–3027.
  8. Nestor MS, Berman B, Swenson N. Safety and efficacy of oral Polypodium leucotomos extract in healthy adult subjects. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. (2015) 8: 19–23.

*The information provided in this email/article/video is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.