So summer has ended, and while we have all tried our best to protect our skin from the UV radiation, autumn remains a dangerous time in the development of skin cancer. The average UV index over the autumn months in Adelaide ranges between 4 and 10! So do yourself a favour and download the free Sun Smart App, designed by the cancer council of Australia to give yourself, up to date, year round sun protection guidelines. More than 75% of melanomas arise from new lesions. So check yourself regularly or book in for a skin check with one of our specifically trained doctors.
Although there is balance between appropriate sun protection and exposure to gain adequate Vitamin D, studies have shown that the regular use of sunscreen does not influence an individual’s Vitamin D level. Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, muscles and general health. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has reported that 25% if the adult population in Australia are Vitamin D deficient. This figure appears higher in the Adelaide Hills due to cold winters and lack of UV exposure through those months. Vitamin D can be checked with a simple blood test and the normal level is >50 nmol/L.
In general terms people who are at increased risk of low Vitamin D include:
1. People with naturally very dark skin – The pigment in skin (melanin) acts as a filter to UVB (ultraviolet B) radiation and reduces the amount of Vitamin D that the body makes in the skin.
2. People with little or no sun exposure – Some groups of people are at particular risk of receiving little or no sun exposure. They include:
- Older adults – especially people who are frail, in medium-to-long-term residential or aged care, and housebound people
- People who wear covering clothing for religious and cultural reasons
- People who deliberately avoid sun exposure for cosmetic or health reasons
- People at high risk of skin cancers and who therefore avoid exposure to the sun
- People hospitalised or institutionalised for long periods
- People with a disability or chronic disease
- People in occupations with little sun exposure, such as office workers, taxi drivers, factory workers or night-shift workers
3. Breastfed babies with other risk factors for low Vitamin D – breastfed babies who fall into the risk categories above or have mothers with low Vitamin D. Babies get their initial store of Vitamin D from their mothers. While infant formula is fortified with Vitamin D, breast milk contains very little. Therefore, breastfed infants rely more heavily on their mother’s initial stores. If the mother of a breastfed baby has low Vitamin D (or had low Vitamin D during pregnancy) then her baby is also at risk of low Vitamin D.
4. People with medical conditions or medications affecting Vitamin D metabolism, including:
- End-stage liver disease
- Kidney disease
- Conditions that cause fat malabsorption (such as cystic fibrosis, coeliac disease and inflammatory bowel disease)
- Use of some drugs that increase the breakdown of Vitamin D (such as rifampicin and some anticonvulsants)
Make an appointment to talk to your doctor about having this checked if you are concerned that you may be deficient.
Pro Medical SA