What's this about a D deficiency down under?
The latest news from Australia shows how difficult it is to get health information over accurately.
A survey from the state of Victoria in the south of the country found that 43% of women suffered mild vitamin D deficiency and 11% had a more severe deficiency during winter. The main source of vitamin D is sunlight and Australia is one of the sunniest places on the planet. Confused?
It's largely down to the success of the Aussies' 'slip, slop, slap' campaign which got over the message that too much sun and sun burn causes skin cancer. It was an important message too because skin cancer was — and is — a major problem in Australia. Non-melanoma skin cancer is by far the most common form of cancer in the country, with 374,000 cases every year while rates of melamona, the more dangerous and often fatal form of skin cancer, are around four times higher in Australia and New Zealand than in the UK.
On the other hand, human beings, like most other living things on Earth, can't thrive without sunshine. Vitamin D is made by the action of the sun on the skin and is essential for good bones, a healthy immune system and possibly also for protection against some forms of cancer. The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) has reminded Australians that a little sun is vital to health.
The Cancer Council of Australia has also pointed out that 'a balance is required between avoiding an increase in the risk of skin cancer and achieving enough ultraviolet radiation exposure to achieve adequate vitamin D levels.'
So what is the message? As ever, it's about common sense. The key thing, according to the MJA, is not to hide from the sun but to be sunsmart. Don't sunbathe for too long and never without protection. Avoid the sun when it is at its peak in the middle of the day but get your daily dose by going out in it for 10 minutes or so before 10 am and after 3pm. That's pretty good advice for Brits too. Especially at this time of the year. Vitamin D can only be stored in the body for 60 days so by the beginning of spring many of us are deficient in it.
Page created on April 4th, 2005
Page updated on December 1st, 2009