Exerpt: “….In the meantime, because of the risk of skin cancer (which is the most common cancer in Canada), the Society will continue to advise Canadians to protect themselves from the sun, particularly between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are at their strongest, or any time of the day when the UV index is three or more….”
DR. WEEKS’ COMMENT: The experts have it backwards. The reason that
Canadian Cancer Society comments on key findings from UV, Vitamin D and Health Conference
25 May 2006
“These findings are a good step forward in providing information and direction to Canadians about this important health issue,” says Heather Logan, Director, Cancer Control Policy, Canadian Cancer Society. “The challenge for the Society is to balance the risk of skin damage and skin cancer from unprotected sun exposure with the benefits of getting enough Vitamin D.”
Experts from around the world came together at the conference, organized by the Canadian Cancer Society in March, to discuss the beneficial health effects of Vitamin D. Sunlight is one source of Vitamin D.
There is strong evidence that Vitamin D is needed for healthy bones and muscles and to prevent fractures in the elderly. There is also growing evidence that Vitamin D may reduce the risk for some types of cancer, particularly colorectal cancer.
The conference also looked at the different ways people can get Vitamin D, which are:
- spending short periods of time in the sun;
- through supplements;
- through diet (especially foods fortified with Vitamin D).
The health risks of sun exposure were also explored at the conference.
Based on the key findings, the Society has three messages to convey to Canadians at this time.
Short periods of time in the sun
“While the findings state that sunlight is important for a person’s health, we caution people that a little sun goes a very long way,” says
“The small amounts of sun exposure needed to produce adequate amounts of Vitamin D will depend on many factors such as a person’s age, diet, skin colour, where they live and the intensity of the sun,” she explains. “Future recommendations will likely be tailored to meet the needs of specific groups of people.”
Experts at the conference agreed that more research is needed to define how much Vitamin D is needed to optimize health benefits, and what are the best ways to obtain adequate levels.
Another key finding from the conference identifies Canadians as being at risk of not getting enough Vitamin D during winter when the UV radiation from the sun’s rays are weak. (Sunlight contains both UVA and UVB radiation; UVB radiation promotes Vitamin D production in the skin.)
“As a result, Canadians may want to consider taking Vitamin D supplements during the winter,” says
The recommended daily dose of Vitamin D for adults is:
- 200 IU (international units) up to the age 50;
- 400 IU for 50-70;
- and 600 IU for over age 70.
Many experts now consider these doses to be too low for optimal health. The safe upper limit is 2,000 IU daily. “Most likely the right amount is somewhere between 200 and 2,000 international units of Vitamin D,” says
The Society advises that if people are concerned about adequate Vitamin D levels, they should discuss supplementation with their healthcare providers.
Diet is another source of Vitamin D, but
Vitamin D is found in oily fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and herrings. It’s also found in milk, soy milk and margarine, which are fortified with Vitamin D.
In the meantime, because of the risk of skin cancer (which is the most common cancer in Canada), the Society will continue to advise Canadians to protect themselves from the sun, particularly between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are at their strongest, or any time of the day when the UV index is three or more. People should seek shade and use an SPF of 15 or higher.
“We encourage people to get outside and be active,” says
Sun Awareness Week is May 29 to June 4.
Comments from other organizations
The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is to eradicate cancer and to enhance the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website www.cancer.ca or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.