Be sunsmart this Summer

By Meeghan, 4 December, 2009

It’s a catch 22; while too much sun exposure can increase the risk of skin cancer, too little sun exposure can increase the risk of Vitamin D deficiency.

Did you know more Australians die from skin cancer every year than our combined national road toll? We have one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world with more than 1700 people dieing from skin cancer in Australia each year.

Even on a day like today with a maximum forecast of only 21 degrees, the UV levels are very high. In fact from September to late April the levels of UV radiation in Australia are enough to damage your skin and eyes.

Here’s a few tips for sun protection;

  • Slip on sun-protective clothing.
  • Slop on SPF30+ broad spectrum, water resistant sunscreen. Put sunscreen on 20 minutes before you go outside and every two hours afterwards.
  • Slap on a hat - that protects your face, head, neck and ears. Seek shade.
  • Slide on some sunglasses - but make sure they meet Australian Standards.

Vitamin D however, plays an essential role in helping the body to absorb calcium, which develops and maintains healthy bones, muscles and teeth. The catch is the best source of vitamin D comes from ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Although there are small amounts of vitamin D in food such as eggs, fish and Vitamin D rich milk, this is usually not enough to maintain the levels our bodies need.

So from September to April – just a few minutes of UV exposure to the face, arms and hands should be enough for most people to maintain adequate vitamin D levels but from May to August – two to three hours of sunlight exposure may be necessary over the week! If you think you may be at risk of vitamin D deficiency you should see your Doctor as a simple blood test can assess your risk.

*People with very dark skin may need three to four times more sun exposure time than people with fair skin to achieve sufficient levels of vitamin D. This is because the pigments in dark skin reduce the effects of UV radiation in the production of vitamin D.
*Solariums are not recommended as a way to treat vitamin D deficiency as they have been linked to causing skin cancer.

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