Midday sun risky way of getting vitamin D, groups say

New Zealanders get enough vitamin D without deliberately exposing themselves to the midday sun, skin cancer prevention groups say.

The Cancer Society, Health Sponsorship Council and the Melanoma Foundation today warned sunseekers to avoid deliberately exposing themselves to midday sun after a speaker at a recent health symposium suggested it was a good way to increase vitamin D levels.

Cancer Society health promotion manager Jan Pearson said vitamin D was essential for general health but most New Zealanders got enough "just being out and about" during summer.

"People deficient in vitamin D have the option of taking supplements. This is far safer than being out unprotected, in the midday sun," she said.

Dr Pearson also warned against the use to sunbeds to boost vitamin D levels.

"The intensity of radiation at some wavelengths from some sunbeds is several times higher than the intensity of radiation that occurs in sunlight at the earth's surface," she said.

"The use of sunbeds increases the risk of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer."

Melanoma Foundation executive director Heather Hyland said more than 250 New Zealanders died from melanoma each year.

"It is important New Zealanders cover up to avoid sunburn, and reduce their melanoma risk," she said.

SunSmart spokesman Wayde Beckman advised those going out in the sun to "slip, slop, slap and wrap" -- slip on a shirt or into the shade, slap on a wide-brimmed hat, slop on broad spectrum sunscreen and wrap on a pair of sunglasses.

"It's important not to underestimate the power of the sun at this time of the year, and to remember that it's not the sun's heat that burns, but UV radiation, which is at its highest between September and April, especially from 11am to 4pm."




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