The Australian summer is nearly upon us which means longer days, higher temperatures and in most cases, more time in the sun. The sun plays a very important role in our health. This is because the sun is the best source of vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for bones, muscles and overall health.
However, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a major cause of skin cancer. In Australia, we need to balance the risk of skin cancer from too much sun exposure with maintaining adequate vitamin D levels.
Tips to help you get enough vitamin D without putting yourself in danger:
Balance your sun exposure: UV radiation from the sun is the best natural source of vitamin D, but too much sun exposure can increase your risk of skin cancer.
Mid-morning and mid-afternoon sun exposure: A few minutes of mid-morning or mid-afternoon sun exposure should be enough for most people. People with naturally very dark skin, may require 4-10 times more sunlight exposure.
Use a combination of protective clothing and accessories: Use a combination of clothing, sunscreen, hats, shade and sunglasses.
Check your vitamin D levels: You might be at risk of low vitamin D if you have naturally dark skin, get little or no sun exposure, have a medical condition that affects vitamin D metabolism, take certain medications, or cover your skin for religious or cultural reasons. Mothers who are breastfeeding should also get their vitamin D levels checked.
Exercise daily: Regular exercise assists with production of vitamin D.
Eat enough calcium: Vitamin D and calcium work together to make your bones strong. Make sure you get enough calcium by eating a selection of dairy products, leafy vegetables, fish, tofu, and nuts.
Eat foods rich in vitamin D: Good food sources include eggs, liver and fatty fish such as salmon. In addition, foods commonly fortified with vitamin D such as margarine, soy milk and cereals are also sources of vitamin D. Be mindful that it can be difficult to get enough vitamin D from diet alone.
Supplements: Vitamin D supplements may be required, but you should speak with your doctor first and take them as directed.
Get regular skin checks: Getting regular skin checks and finding a melanoma at the earliest stage is crucial in stopping skin cancer in its tracks.
As you can see, there are many great ways that you can get enough vitamin D to maintain greater health and vitality. But, as the sun’s intensity grows, it is very important that you spend your time in the sun wisely and achieve adequate vitamin levels through a balanced approach.
The Cancer Council recommends all adults should check their skin and moles every 3 months. Those at risk should have a trained doctor examine them at least once a year.