There’s a fine line between too much and not enough sun. Too much UV radiation from the sun can give you skin cancer, but then solar rays are the best natural source of vitamin D. So, how much sun is safe?
Vitamin D is not like any other vitamin –it behaves more like a hormone.Vitamin D is produced in the body, but it’s almost impossible to get an adequate amount solely from food sources, such as oily fish (e.g. sardines, herrings, mackerel) and egg yolks. The best source of vitamin D is through sufficient exposure to sunlight.
Vitamin D deficiency usually doesn’t result in obvious symptoms, but without it we wouldn’t be able to absorb enough calcium from food to make our bones strong and sturdy. This puts us at higher risk of osteoporosis.
Much research is being done on vitamin D and what insufficient levels means for our health. The more that is researched, the more is found, with some studies even suggesting that a vitamin D deficiencycan lead tosome serious health conditions, such as:
- heart disease
- autoimmune disease (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes)
- some cancers (e.g. breast, bowel, prostate cancers).
That’s why we need to balance the risk of skin cancer caused by too much sun exposure with maintaining vitamin D levels.
Those who are at risk of vitamin D deficiency include:
- people with naturally dark skin – they need more sun exposure compared to fair-skinned individuals
- those who spend most of their time indoors during daylight hours (e.g. because of a chronic illness or disability, or because of working conditions)
- older people, particularly those in residential homes.
To find out how much sun you need to make enough vitamin D without increasing your risk of skin cancer, visit Cancer Council Australia