Vitamin D is essential for strong bones and and muscle health.
But the best source of the vitamin comes from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, which is the major cause of skin cancer.
With more and more Aussies being told by doctors to get more Vitamin D, many are confused how to increase their levels without increasing their skin cancer risk.
To help, experts from Cancer Council Australia, the Australasian College of Dermatologists, the Australian and New Zealand Bone and Mineral Society, Osteoporosis Australia and the Endocrine Society of Australia have released some clear and simple recommendations.
Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said the experts agreed that adequate vitamin D can be obtained without risk of harmful UV exposure. “The majority of Queenslanders only need a few minutes of sun exposure on most days, even in winter, for sufficient levels of vitamin D,” Ms Clift said.
“This exposure should occur when the UV Index level is below three, even on cooler and cloudier days. Exposure to harmful UV radiation when the UV Index level is three or above can significantly increase a person’s risk of skin cancer.”
She continued: “Queenslanders only need a small amount of sun exposure to receive adequate vitamin D, and most people get it through typical outdoor day-to-day activities. Just five or six minutes of sunshine, when the UV Index is below three, is adequate exposure to maintain healthy vitamin D levels – hanging your clothes on the washing line or walking to your mailbox, for example.”
“It’s important for Queenslanders to prioritise sun safety and ensure full sun protection when outdoors, and the UV Index level is three or above – which it is all year round in Queensland. Slip on protective clothing, Slop on minimum SPF30 broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen, Slap on a broad-brimmed hat, Seek shade and Slide on wrap-around sunnies to best reduce your risk of skin cancer.”
The recommendations also contain advice for people considered at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency, including Australians with naturally very dark skin, the frail and/or elderly, and people who are chronically ill or institutionalised and live largely indoors, are on particular medications, or cover up for religious or cultural reasons.
A full copy of the recommendations can be found at cancer.org.au/vitamindposition.