We Are Sunshine

New Zealand report calls for Cancer Society to tone down anti-sun messaging

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

A New Zealand news agency — bolstered by reports that vitamin D deficiency down under might be even more prevalent than it is in North America — has dared to question dermatology’s dogma that the Kiwi population should avoid sun exposure.

2009-02-17-kiwi-sun-tanningnews-copy.jpg“New research from England’s Bristol University has lent weight to the argument of campaigners in the UK who say vitamin D deficiency — which is often caused by inadequate sun exposure — may be a danger that outweighs the risk of skin cancer,” The Sunday Star Times reported in an article this week. “UK health campaigner Oliver Gillie has even called for the scrapping of the UK’s Sunsmart campaign (similar to the New Zealand campaign of the same name), calling for public health bodies to encourage sunbathing.”

The article quotes New Zealand Professor Robert Scragg of the School for Population Health at the University of Auckland as saying that too much focus is put on people staying out of the sun. “He says people should aim for short regular bursts of sunlight, without sunscreen, rather than prolonged exposure, which is more damaging to the body,” the article says.

In other words: UV light in levels consistent with moderate tanning, but at levels that avoid sunburn.

Dr Judith Galtry, of the New Zealand Cancer Society, counters that New Zealand should continue to avoid sun exposure because of the country’s fair-skinned population and higher UV levels. “However, the Cancer Society does recommend some sun exposure for vitamin D synthesis,” the story reported. “It advises only that New Zealanders protect themselves during the sunny months from September and March, and only between 11 and 4pm. During winter, sun protection is advised only around snow or water.”

Galtry did not quantify whether or not vitamin D synthesis was possible before 11 or after 4 pm in the New Zealand summer — an error made by many anti-sun lobbyists.

To read the full story click here.