Vitamin D is important for strong bones and good health. The main way we get vitamin D is from sunlight on our skin. Therefore, a balance is needed between being SunSmart to avoid an increased risk of skin cancer and getting enough vitamin D for good health.
The majority of New Zealanders are at greater risk of skin damage and skin cancer, than not getting enough vitamin D.
Healthy adults, who are ‘out and about’ and physically active outdoors, are unlikely to lack vitamin D.
- Between September and April be SunSmart, especially between 10 am and 4 pm. A daily walk or some other form of outdoor physical activity in the early morning or late afternoon is recommended.
- Between May and August some sun on your skin outdoors is important so your body can make vitamin D. A daily walk or another form of outdoor physical activity in the hours around noon, with face, arms and hands in the sun, is recommended.
- Be SunSmart at any time of the year when you are outside in the mountains or near reflective surfaces such as snow, ice and water.
Groups who may not have enough vitamin D are people:
- people from Africa, the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East, especially if they are covered by veils and full-body coverage clothing.
- people who must avoid sun exposure because they have had skin cancer; or are on medication which makes their skin very sensitive to the sun
- people who can’t move about easily, including people who are bed-ridden or chair-bound; who are frail; or are housebound.
If you are worried about being vitamin D deficient talk to your GP. If you are vitamin D deficient they may prescribe vitamin D tablets. Non-prescribed vitamin D supplements are not recommended as they may not be safe.
The Cancer Society, together with other organisations, has developed a consensus statement on Vitamin D which provides information for the general population. A companion statement has since been produced covering Vitamin D and sun exposure in pregnancy and infancy. These can both be found below.
Consensus Statement on Vitamin D and Sun Exposure in New Zealand March 2012
Companion Statement on Vitamin D and Sun Exposure in Pregnancy and Infancy in New Zealand April 2013. MoH.
Last Updated: Monday 20 April, 2015