New Recommendations for Sun Protection and Vitamin D
It’s always been an important balance: how do you make sure that you’re getting adequate Vitamin D, but not putting yourself at risk of harmful UV rays and skin cancer? New recommendations released on January 31 aim to provide a clearer guideline on how Australians can balance their sun protection and Vitamin D needs.
Osteoporosis Australia, Cancer Council Australia, the Australasian College of Dermatologists, the Australian and New Zealand Bone and Mineral Society, and the Endocrine Society of Australia, have collaborated to publish the new guidelines.
The recommendation is that when there are low UV levels (below 3), sun protection is not required and limited time spent outdoors with exposed skin will support Vitamin D production. However, in high UV sun (generally throughout summer), slip slop slap should remain a priority to prevent skin cancer.
The recommendations show that during summer in most parts of Australia, UV levels are high (3 and above) and sun protection is the priority. A few minutes in the sun in mid-morning or mid-afternoon would be sufficient for adequate Vitamin D levels. Professor Peter Ebeling AO, from Osteoporosis Australia, added that in southern states, some Australians would need to make an extra effort to maintain Vitamin D levels during winter.
“If you have adequate Vitamin D during summer, then your body can rely on this storage for one to two months,” Professor Ebeling said. “For most of the population, any reduction in Vitamin D levels experienced in winter can be corrected at other times of the year when UV levels are higher.”
The recommendations contain specific guidance for people considered at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency, including if you: are naturally very dark skinned; avoid sun exposure because of a high risk of skin cancer; are frail and/or elderly, chronically ill or institutionalised and live largely indoors; take particular medications; have conditions causing poor absorption of calcium and vitamin D; or cover up for religious or cultural reasons.
“Those at risk of Vitamin D deficiency should talk to their doctor about vitamin D supplementation, to see if that might be more appropriate than sun exposure,” Professor Ebeling said.
Greg Lyubomirsky, CEO of Osteoporosis Australia said, “Vitamin D remains an important part of maintaining bone health. Balanced exposure to sunlight such as a few minutes mid-morning or mid-afternoon outside peak UV times, should be sufficient to maintain adequate vitamin D. For people at risk of vitamin D deficiency, supplementation may be an option and should be discussed with your doctor.”
A full copy of the recommendations can be found at cancer.org.au/vitamindposition