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December 14, 2021 9:00 am

Vitamin D is generated when the human body is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) from sunlight.

Coming from some foods, such as oily fish, eggs and liver, vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining good health, including establishing strong bones and muscle health. Severe vitamin D deficiency leads to osteomalacia (softening of bones) in adults and rickets in children, along with muscle weakness.  Although the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the best source of vitamin D, it is also the major cause of skin cancer. 

According to Cancer Council Australia (2018), research found that UV radiation levels vary depending on location, time of year, time of day, cloud coverage and the environment. The popular opinion (and incorrect) is that UV levels are related directly to temperature. 

Of course we all lather up sunscreen on a bright hot day for protection from sunburn but UV levels are not directly related to temperature.

Diagram 1  UV index in one day

UV During the Day

Referring to diagram 1, the green section is when UV is below 3 in the early mornings and late afternoons every day. This is a relatively safer time to be exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. (It’s still recommended to slip slop slap before venturing outside).

Finding a balance on vitamin D obtaining and sun protection is critical. In late autumn and winter in some southern parts of Australia, when the UV Index falls below 3, spending time outdoors in the middle of the day with some skin uncovered is a safer bet to top up your vitamin D levels. Being physically active (e.g. gardening or going for a brisk walk) also helps boost vitamin D levels.

If the UV index is 3 or above or having a long time period outdoors, slip on SPF 30 or higher sunscreen. This habit should be incorporated into your daily morning routine on these days (and any other day for that matter).

Apart from a liberal application of sunscreen, slap on a broad brimmed hat (not a cap), seek shade and slide on sunglasses, all of which can protect skin from harmful UV rays. Lastly, checking the UV index on weather webpages or utilising professional UV apps before venturing outside. Its important to protect your biggest and most vulnerable organ, your skin. 

We love a sunburnt country but be very careful of the consequences of too much sun!


Mates Against Melanoma

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