Don’t risk skin cancer while chasing vitamin D boost, authorities warn – The Guardian

Australian authorities have released new advice on prolonged sun exposure amid concerns people are risking skin cancer in the mistaken belief they are boosting their vitamin D levels.

The sun’s ultraviolet radiation is the major cause of skin cancer and the best source of vitamin D, essential for strong bones and overall health.

The public confusion over balancing the two has led to the release of clearer and simpler advice by 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.

Sun protection to reduce skin cancer risk should be the priority even for people with vitamin D deficiency, experts said.

“During summer, most Australians have adequate vitamin D levels just from doing typical day-to-day activities, such as walking for a couple of minutes to the car or the shop,” said Craig Sinclair of the Cancer Council.

“However, if you are going outside for more than a few minutes and the UV index is three or above, you need to protect yourself – slip, slop, slap, seek shade and slide on sunnies.”

Prolonged sun exposure doesn’t cause vitamin D levels to continue to increase but does increase the risk of skin cancer, said Associate Professor Peter Foley of the Australasian College of Dermatologists.

“Around two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime and around 2,000 Australians die each year as a result, so protection against excessive UV exposure remains vital, even for those with vitamin D deficiency,” he said.

But sun protection isn’t recommended when the UV Index is below three, which may mean some people need to spend time outdoors to maintain vitamin D levels during winter.

The recommendations also contain advice for people at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency, including those who mainly live indoors or those with naturally very dark skin.


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