Is any sun good for me? Do I need vitamin D?

Author: Vanessa Ngan, Staff Writer; Copy Editor: Clare Morrison; Chief Editor: Dr Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, October 2013. About Melanoma is sponsored by the New Zealand Dermatological Society Incorporated.


As the saying goes, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”; the same can also be said of the sun…: “a little bit of sun a day keeps the rickets away”.

Vitamin D is important to our body in many ways, including preventing rickets (soft, brittle bones) in children. One way we get vitamin D is from the sun. Our body makes vitamin D when skin is directly exposed to the sun and most people can get some of their vitamin D needs this way.

No one knows for sure how much time we need in the sun for our skin to make enough vitamin D but we do know for sure that too much sun can cause skin cancer. The following tips will help you get enough sun to make vitamin D without increasing your risk of skin cancer:

  • If you are fair-skinned you need only 5 minutes of midday summer sun in shorts and shirt without sunscreen to make enough.
  • You will need longer or greater skin exposure outdoors if your skin is darker.
  • Being physically active outdoors helps you make more Vitamin D than just resting in the sun.
  • Ageing skin is not as good at making Vitamin D. If you are over 50 years old or have had previous skin cancers, you are better to stay out of the sun, apply sunscreen, and talk to your doctor about taking vitamin D supplements.

 

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