SunSmart says 'Time for Victorians to shelve the sunscreen for winter'

Tuesday 17 June, 2014

New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals only one in two (49%) Victorian adults have sufficient vitamin D levels in winter, compared to 80% in summer.[i] This winter, SunSmart recommends Victorians shelve their summer hats and sunscreen and get some midday sun to help with their vitamin D levels.

“Victorians may not be aware that their vitamin D level can vary throughout seasons,” SunSmart Manager Sue Heward said. “Most of the population makes enough vitamin D in summer, because the UV levels are high. However, it can be difficult for people to make enough vitamin D during winter. It’s colder, so we cover up and often stay inside.”

Sun protection is not required from May to August in Victoria, unless you are near highly reflective surfaces such as snow, outside for extended periods, or if UV levels reach 3 and above.

Between these months, SunSmart's tips for Victorians are:

  • Put away the sunscreen and sun hats
  • Aim for daily sun exposure for at least 20 mins
  • Get active at midday – physical activity helps vitamin D production.

Vitamin D deficiency causes bone and muscle pain, and poor bone mineralisation (softer bones) leading to rickets (bone deformity) in children and osteomalacia in adults. Vitamin D is made through a series of biochemical processes that start when the skin is directly exposed to the sun's UV rays. Based on the Victorian Department of Health definitions of vitamin D deficiency and adequacy, a good level of vitamin D is 50 nmol/L or above and a severe deficiency is less than 12.5 nmol/L.

Some parts of the population are at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency including:

  • people with naturally very dark skin
  • individuals with little or no sun exposure, such as those that are housebound or in institutionalised care
  • people who wear concealing clothing for religious or cultural purposes
  • breastfed babies whose mothers are vitamin D deficient
  • people with conditions or medications affecting vitamin D metabolism.

“While the majority of Victorian adults may not require a vitamin D test, it’s important that those people at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency discuss any concerns with their GP,” Monash University Head of Department of Medicine at the School of Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Professor Peter Ebeling, said.

SunSmart’s free vitamin D tracker tool (online, smartphone and tablet versions) makes it easy for Victorians to assess their daily sun exposure. Additional resources include the Vitamin D and UV radiation information sheet which is available in 12 different languages.

For more information on UV, skin cancer and vitamin D, visit sunsmart.com.au.

[i] Australian Bureau of Statistics. 4364.0.55.006 - Australian Health Survey: Biomedical Results for Nutrients,Vitamin D 2011-12. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/latestProducts/4364.0.55.006Media%20Release22011-12.

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