Sun exposure and vitamin D
UV radiation from the sun causes skin cancer, but it is also the best source of vitamin D, which is needed to develop and maintain healthy bones. The amount of sunlight you need for vitamin D depends on several factors, including the UV level, your skin type and your lifestyle.
UV levels vary across Australia, so the time you need to spend in the sun will be determined by your location, the season and the time of day, cloud coverage and the environment.
The body can only absorb a limited amount of vitamin D at a time. Getting more sun than recommended does not increase your vitamin D levels, but it does increase your skin cancer risk. For most people, just 15–20 minutes of incidental sun exposure, such as walking from the office to get lunch or hanging out the washing, is enough to produce the required vitamin D level.
Getting too much UV is not recommended, even for people with a vitamin D deficiency. After a melanoma diagnosis, if you are concerned about vitamin D deficiency talk to your doctor about the best ways to maintain vitamin D while reducing your risk of further melanomas. Your doctor may recommend taking a supplement.
Protecting your skin from the sun
After a diagnosis of melanoma, you should check your skin regularly and follow SunSmart behaviour. When UV levels are 3 or above, use a combination of measures to protect your skin.
|Slip on clothing|
Wear clothing that covers your shoulders, neck, arms, legs and body. Choose closely woven fabric or fabric with a high ultraviolet protection factor rating (UPF).
|Slap on a hat|
Wear a broad-brimmed hat that shades your face, neck and ears. Hats for children aged under 8 years should have at least a 5 cm brim, and hats for children aged 8 –12 should have at least a 6 cm brim. Adult hats should have at least a 7.5 cm brim.
|Slop on sunscreen|
Use an SPF 30+ or higher broad-spectrum sunscreen. Use a water-resistant product for sports and swimming. Apply a generous amount of sunscreen 20 minutes before going out and reapply every two hours, or after swimming or any activity that causes you to sweat or rub it off.
|Avoid sun lamps and solariums|
Do not use sun lamps, solariums or tanning beds (banned for commercial use), which give off UV radiation.
Use shade from trees, umbrellas, buildings or any type of canopy. UV radiation is reflective and bounces off surfaces, such as concrete, water, sand and snow. If you can see the sky through the shade, even if the direct sun is blocked, the shade will not completely protect you from UV.
|Check sun protection times every day|
Check the sun protection times for your local area through the SunSmart app, online (Sunsmartor bom.gov.au/uv), in the weather section of daily newspapers, or with a free website widget.
Use a combination of sun protection measures to protect babies and children from direct exposure to sunlight. Applying sunscreen on babies under 6 months is not recommended.
|Slide on sunglasses|
Protect your eyes with sunglasses that meet the Australian Standard AS 1067. Wraparound styles are best. Sunglasses should be worn all year round.
A/Prof Victoria Atkinson, Senior Staff Specialist, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Visiting Medical Oncologist, Greenslopes Private Hospital, and The University of Queensland Clinical School of Medicine, QLD; Adjunct Prof John Kelly AM, Consultant Dermatologist, Victorian Melanoma Service, and Department of Medicine at Alfred Health, Monash University, VIC; Dr Alex Chamberlain, Dermatologist, Glenferrie Dermatology, Victorian Melanoma Service and Monash Univeristy, VIC; Alison Button-Sloan, Melanoma Patients Australia; Peter Cagney, Consumer; Prof Brendon J Coventry, Associate Professor of Surgery, The University of Adelaide, Surgical Oncologist, Royal Adelaide Hospital, and Research Director, Australian Melanoma Research Foundation, SA; Dr David Gyorki, Consultant Surgical Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Liz King, Skin Cancer Prevention Manager, Cancer Council NSW; Shannon Jones, SunSmart Health Professionals Coordinator, Cancer Council Victoria; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Prof Richard Scolyer, Senior Staff Specialist, Tissue Pathology and Diagnostic Oncology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Co-Medical Director, Melanoma Institute Australia and Clinical Professor, The University of Sydney, NSW; Heather Walker, Chair, Cancer Council National Skin Cancer Committee, Cancer Council Australia. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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