Expert guidance is needed to balance the benefits and risks of sun exposure
Vitamin D (defined in this article as serum 25-hydroxy-vitamin D) is largely obtained through the effect of sunlight on the skin. Vitamin D plays an undeniably important role in maintenance of bone health, preventing the development of rickets and osteomalacia. However, there has been increasing recent media attention given to research findings that suggest other possible benefits of vitamin D, such as prevention of certain cancers or multiple sclerosis.1,2 In the first 6 months of 2006, seven of 124 daily updates on “cancer-related news” (6%) monitored by The Cancer Council Australia featured at least one item on the importance of sun exposure for obtaining sufficient vitamin D to prevent chronic diseases. Given that the primary source of health information for most Australians is the media,3 such reports have the potential to change attitudes and behaviours to sun exposure.