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Vitamin D debate – relevance for outdoor workers

What is vitamin D and why is it important?

The sun’s UV radiation is the major cause of skin cancer but it is also our best source of vitamin D.

Vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining healthy bones and muscles.

Outdoor workers vitamin D levels

Have you ever been tempted to work without a shirt to boost your vitamin D levels?

Most people actually get enough vitamin D from the sun exposure they receive through their day-to-day outdoor activities and incidental exposure to the sun.

As an outdoor worker, you are unlikely to have problems with low vitamin D. The amount of sun you receive each day will ensure your body maintains a healthy level of vitamin D. You don’t need to intentionally expose yourself to the sun to boost your vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D is only produced in the first few minutes of sun exposure. This means that spending longer in the sun won’t increase your vitamin D levels but it does increase your risk of skin cancer.

The main focus for outdoor workers, who are exposed to a significant amount of UV radiation, should be on protecting their skin when the UV Index is 3 or above. Do this to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer and other skin damage. Protect your skin in five ways – Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide.

If I protect myself from the sun will I get enough vitamin D?

Sensible sun protection does not put you at risk of low vitamin D. When sunscreen is tested in lab conditions it is shown to block vitamin D production, however regular use in real life has been shown to have little effect on vitamin D levels. This is because most of us apply too little sunscreen and we do not cover all exposed skin. Also, no sunscreen blocks 100% of UV radiation. Hats, sunglasses and SunSmart clothing also greatly reduce but do not eliminate UV exposure.

For information about finding the right balance please visit the Cancer Council WA website ‘Vitamin D – finding the right balance’.

If you work indoors, you might want to check out Cancer Council Australia’s e-learning course to find out how you can balance vitamin D with skin cancer prevention.

 

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