New Position Statement released on balancing risks and benefits of sun exposure.


A new statement on risks and benefits of sun exposure was published in the Australia and New Zealand Journal of Public Health (Feb 2024), representing 13 national organisations, and following a 2-day summit. It is endorsed by Royal Australia College of GPs, Australasian College of Dermatologists, Cancer Council Australia, Melanoma Patients Australia, Australian Skin and Skin Cancer research Centre, Healthy Bones Australia, Multiple Sclerosis Australia among others.

Prof Ebeling AO, Chair of Healthy Bones Australia and co-author said “this new Position Statement has been a collaborative effort and provides clear recommendations to help balance the need for sun protection with limited exposure for vitamin D, which we know is important for bone health.”

Main points from the new statement include:

• Preventing skin cancer remains a priority and vitamin D is important for bone health and also has important effects on the immune system

• Australian population is divided into 3 groups, based on skin type. Skin type relates to risk of skin cancer and also affects vitamin D requirements.

Prof Rebecca Mason AM, co-author said “a key feature of the new position statement is dividing the community into 3 groups, based on risk of skin cancer, to provide greater clarity about protecting skin while also receiving health benefits from vitamin D. This better reflects the diverse Australian population.”

Key Vitamin D out-takes:

Skin type, season (summer or winter) and amount of skin exposed all factor in guidance for maintaining adequate vitamin D.

· For people with darker skin (deeply brown to black skin), it takes longer sun exposure, with as much bare skin exposed, even in summer, to maintain vitamin D status.

Sunglasses are recommended to protect eyes.

· For people with darker white, olive or light brown skin adequate vitamin D status can be obtained by short and regular exposure to sunlight. After this short exposure then sun protection is recommended if UV is 3 or above.

However for anyone with a personal history or family history of melanoma (or other skin cancer) or lots of moles or uncommon moles on skin or taking immunosuppressant medication then sun protection is recommended when UV index is 3 or above.

Discuss vitamin D needs with a doctor.

· For pale skin (which can burn easily) sun protection is recommended when UV index is 3 or above. Discuss vitamin D needs with a doctor.

A/Prof Christian Girgis, member of Healthy Bones Australia Medical Committee and co-author said “the statement is based on latest research and will help health professionals and the community understand the appropriate sun exposure balance for individuals while also focusing on the daily UV index as a guide.”

Skin protection in the statement refers to ‘5 ways’…Slip on clothing, Slap on sunscreen, Slop on a hat, Seek shade, Slide on sunglasses.