In recent years, you’ve probably heard more and more people talking about the importance of wearing sunscreen and not going out in the sun as much. That advice, while often aimed at teens and young adults, still applies no matter how old you are. Women in particular need to be diligent about sunscreen use as they age.
In fact, new research from postdoctoral fellow Kai Triebner, PhD at the University of Bergen found that UV radiation creates health issues that specifically affect postmenopausal women.
What Are The Health Effects of UV Radiation?
Women need to worry about additional risks as they age. When we go through menopause, we experience a number of biological changes, including a decrease in estrogen production. Lower levels of estrogen can cause vaginal dryness, an increase in urinary tract infections, mood swings, depression, headaches, and fatigue.
In Dr. Triebner’s article in Maturitas, the official journal of the European Menopause and Andropause Society, he looked into how UV radiation further impacted those hormonal processes, which can already create health problems.
For his study, Dr. Triebner surveyed 580 postmenopausal women from Western Europe and used satellite data of their locations to figure out their amount of regular sun exposure. Each woman also answered questions about their lifestyle habits, including how often they’re in the sun, whether or not they use sunscreen, and which areas of their bodies are typically exposed to sunlight.
How Does UV Radiation Affect Women Who’ve Gone Through Menopause?
The results of the study showed that UV radiation can negatively impact women’s estrogen levels even more than what’s considered a typical decline in hormone production.
Women who had more sun exposure saw a greater drop in estrogen levels after just one month, which can lead to many long-term health problems as exposure accumulates over time. “A low estrogen level and a high level of the other hormones increases the risk of osteoporosis, cardiac diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s,” Dr. Triebner explained.
Moreover, the research showed that participants were at increased risk no matter where they lived. For instance, someone exposed to sunlight in a cloudy nation like Norway still saw similar effects as someone living in a sunnier location like Spain.
How Can Women Protect Themselves From UV Radiation?
Luckily, there are very simple solutions for protecting against UV radiation and these health problems: Wearing sunscreen and covering up. For people who are concerned about not getting enough vitamin D, Dr. Triebner also says that 10 to 15 minutes of sun per day is more than enough. Otherwise, people should take those protective measures.
Dr. Triebner believes that there’s still a lot research to do in the study of UV radiation and its effects on menopause. However, it never hurts to heed his warning and lather on some sunscreen today and every day no matter the weather. One of our favorite recommendations for great protection is EltaMD UV Daily Face Sunscreen Moisturizer (Buy on Amazon $29.50), which is SPF 40.