The sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the major cause of skin cancer and the best source of vitamin D; essential for strong bones and overall health.
In Victoria, it is important to take a balanced UV approach to help with vitamin D levels while minimising the risk of skin cancer with appropriate sun protection measures.
Vitamin D is a hormone that controls calcium levels in the blood. It is needed for healthy bones and muscles and for general health. Vitamin D is made in our bodies through a series of processes that start when our skin is exposed to UV.
It is important to maintain vitamin D levels all year round. Prolonged exposure to UV is not necessary to boost vitamin D levels, in fact it is recommended that short periods of time (a few minutes) in summer is more efficient for the production of vitamin D. Our bodies only store enough vitamin D to last between 30 and 60 days.
Some foods, such as oily fish and eggs contain small amounts of vitamin D, while margarine and some types of milk have added vitamin D. Food however, only makes a small contribution (approximately 10%) to the body's overall vitamin D levels and it is difficult to get enough vitamin D from diet alone. The sun is the best natural source of vitamin D. Daily exercise can assist with vitamin D production. Supplements can also be taken to help with vitamin D levels.
The amount of UV exposure needed to maintain vitamin D levels depends on the time of year, location, skin type, day-to-day activity and individual circumstances.
Some sections of the population are more likely to be at risk of vitamin D deficiency. These people may need to speak to their doctor about taking vitamin D supplements. Low levels of vitamin D may have no obvious symptoms but without treatment, can have significant health effects.
Resources intended to assist health clinicians, health promotion providers and community workers provide consistent messages about low vitamin D in the community.
The vitamin D tracker allows users to find out if they are getting enough sun during the autumn and winter months to help with vitamin D levels.