Column/Getting some sunlight

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 27, 2007

Scientists tell us that a little exposure to the sun is a good thing.

In fact, we get vitamin D from sunlight and most people need about 20 minutes of sunlight a day to receive adequate amounts of vitamin D.

This is the perfect time of year to talk about getting outside. The days are warm, but not yet hot. And we have more hours of sunlight each day.

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There are many places in our area to get outside and enjoy the weather.

For many folks, you have to look no further than your own back yard to find a great place to sit, read a book, and catch some rays of vitamin D.

Then there are city parks. There are several small parks scattered around the Selma, but the prime spot is Bloch Park. You can enjoy the walking trail, kids can swing and slide in the playground, or you can use the open field for hitting golf balls or flying a kite.

We are also fortunate in our area to have Paul M. Grist State Park.

Just a few miles north of Selma, the 1,080-acre park features a 100-acre lake, with opportunities for swimming, fishing, boating, picnicking, hiking and camping.

Just a few miles south of Selma is the Roland Cooper State Park, which runs along the Dannelly Reservoir. The park has a nine-hole golf course, fishing, hiking and picnicking.

Of course, if you are into sports, there are ball fields, tennis courts and golf courses right here in Selma.

I’d be remiss to leave out the Alabama River. Many locals have their own favorite spot along the river, and certainly it’s a great place to get out in the sunlight.

Of course, there are dangers associated with overexposure to the sun.

There were more than 62,000 new cases of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, reported in the United States in 2006, according to the American Cancer Society.

Most of the more than 1 million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer diagnosed each year is believed to be sun-related.

There are an estimated 10,000 deaths due to skin cancer each year.

So, in order to enjoy your time in the sun, but avoid putting yourself at risk, the American Cancer Society recommends the following safety tips:

Avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day – midday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Cover up. Being out in the sun doesn’t mean you have to expose your skin to the sun. Wear clothing that protects as much skin as possible. Of course, in our climate, lightweight clothing is best.

Wear a hat. A good shade hat will cover neck, ears, eyes, nose and scalp. A baseball cap provides some protection for the front and top of the head but not the back of the neck or the ears, where skin cancers commonly develop.

Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Apply 20 to 30 minutes before exposure to the sun and remember to re-apply after getting in the water. Also, use sunscreen lip balm.

Wear sunglasses that block UV rays.

Getting the right amount of sun – but not too much – can make a big difference in the way we feel.

Tammy Leytham is editor of The Selma Times-Journal.