How to boost vitamin D levels without increasing the risk of skin cancer

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

5 ways to improve your health and wellbeing at work

On average, Australians spend 70 per cent of their work day sitting down. For most of us, that’s more than five hours glued to a chair!

While some sedentary behaviour is unavoidable, it’s important to focus on your health and wellbeing at work to reduce the risk of illness and increase overall productivity.

Cancer Council Queensland has five top tips to get you started:

1. Stand up.
Implement simple strategies to break up prolonged periods of sitting. Why not request standing meetings or make an effort to stand while talking on the telephone? Research shows frequent micro breaks improve comfort, work performance and overall wellbeing.

2. Take a break.
When your schedule fills up, it feels easier to eat on the go. However, it’s important to make your break a priority. Block out a break in your calendar each day to avoid the temptation of eating at your desk. Spend the time re-energising with a walk around the block, having lunch with friends, or simply doing gentle muscle stretches.

3. Assess your desk.
Notice aches and pains after a long day in the office? Poor posture and incorrect desk ergonomics may be the cause. When sitting on your chair you should be able to put your feet flat on the floor, with knees in line with your hips. Position your computer screen directly in front of you, with the top of the screen approximately 2-3 inches above eye level. Sit at least an arm’s length away for maximum comfort.

4. Stretch.
Every 20 minutes, stop and stretch for 30 seconds. Gently stretch your neck, shoulders, back, arms and feet to keep your muscles, bones and joints in fine form. If you work at a computer, frequently take your eyes off the screen to avoid strain. Roll your eyes a couple of times and focus on objects at various distances, before returning to the screen.

5. Get social.
With such a large percentage of our day spent at work, it’s important to spend time interacting with colleagues. Not only will you make new friends, but socialising for small snippets throughout the day can boost morale, build a sense of community and heighten creativity.

More information about Cancer Council Queensland is available at or 13 11 20.

Six ways coconut oil has changed my life

A few years ago I started hearing about coconut oil. Naturally skeptical me thought it was just a fad and continued with my rice bran oil. My partner on the other hand was a convert and insisted that I use it for just about anything. Fast forward three years later and I have only praise for this remarkable product.

Here’s my top six uses for coconut oil as tried and tested by yours truly.


Seriously, I didn’t believe it at first but nine months later and not a single stretch mark on my belly or boobs. I didn’t apply it religiously either, probably about every second night or when I remembered. Plus it’s natural so no risk of harmful chemicals leeching into your skin.



Again, I wanted something natural for my son who has very sensitive skin and is prone to eczema. So far he has only had a handful of nappy rashes when teething. I’ve also used this for small eczema outbreaks on his back and neck and again they’ve cleared in a matter of days.



If like me, you’ve been blessed with frizzy and unruly dry hair, coconut oil will help to tame your tresses. I like to apply mine to wet hair after conditioning as I normally tend to wear my hair curly. The coconut oil locks in moisture and prevents a crazy frizzy look.



As a contact lens wearer, I can easily and safely remove eye make-up without the dreaded sting. And of course coconut oil also lubricates the skin as you clean your eyes so it’s a win-win situation.



If you buy a quality organic virgin coconut oil, you shouldn’t experience a nasty aftertaste. A quality coconut oil will cost a bit more though but it’s worth it. I generally use coconut oil when shallow frying, stewing and roasting. I tend to also substitute coconut oil when baking cakes and biscuits.



Pop a teaspoon of coconut oil into your mouth before brushing your teeth; swish the oil around your teeth and gums for at least 15 minutes and spit out. This helps to remove bacteria and plaque from your teeth.


Of course there are several other uses for coconut oil too but these six are my absolute favourites. Have you found coconut oil useful in your life? Any tips to share?

Women say no to additional breast cancer treatment if they live too far away, research shows

New joint research has found that the distance to cancer services may be influencing the treatment intentions of regional Queensland women diagnosed with breast cancer.

A a study by QUT, Cancer Council and BreastScreen Queensland found that where a woman lives impacts on the intention to use additional radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormonal therapy as part of their breast cancer treatment.

The research examined the data of 6357 women diagnosed with screen-detected invasive breast cancers in Queensland between 1997 and 2008.

QUT PhD researcher Jeff Ching-Fu Hsieh said the research found women living closer to a radiation treatment facility were more likely to agree to be scheduled to use adjuvant therapy to treat breast cancer. (Adjuvant therapy is additional treatment commonly given before or after breast cancer surgery, to improve disease-specific symptoms and overall survival.)

Mr Hsieh said the study was the first of its kind, examining how geography impacted the intention to use adjuvant therapy after a diagnosis of breast cancer and illustrated the important role spatial mathematics can have in the health and other sectors.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said the research found the intention to use adjuvant therapy varied significantly depending on where a woman lived in Queensland.

“The study found women living more than four hours from a radiation facility were over two times less likely to be scheduled for adjuvant radiotherapy than those living within one hour of the closest facility,” Ms Clift said.

“Our findings suggest women and/or their treating clinicians may be making decisions regarding the treatment strategy based on perceived barriers to treatment, not simply an inability of women to take up their intended option.

“More research is needed to understand whether this reflects the decision making of the women themselves, or the recommendations made by their referring doctor.

“The research also suggests there are other unmeasured geographical barriers influencing treatment choices for women diagnosed with breast cancer.

“There is a great need to identify these additional barriers, and how they are impacting on Queensland women and the treatment intentions.

“Long-term investigations into geographic differentials are vitally important to cancer control in Queensland, helping us to identify inequalities and develop services and programs to ensure survival outcomes are improved.”

Around 400 Gold Coast women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and about 65 die from the disease.


Eat your way to a better figure without exercise!

Bond University is looking for Gold Coast women who want to eat their way to a better figure.

In return for taking part in a new research program, you’ll get all your meals provided free for 30 weeks, and be linked up with a support group.

Dr Hayley O’Neill says in this study, there’s no pounding the streets or hitting the gym.

“We actually don’t want them exercising, because we want to design new strategies for people to lose weight,” she said.

“We provide all meals throughout the 22 to 30 weeks and we do a number of measures to assess their health and ensure they’re losing weight.”

Play the extended interview here:

Dr. O’Neill says the three key causes of weight loss are doing the wrong kind of exercise, having a poor diet, and stress.

“The New Year is a time when people are often motivated to make changes in their lives, but often it’s difficult to stay on track and motivated,” she said.

Get in touch with Bond University on 5595 1111 for more information.