Vitamin D and sun protection: The impact of mixed public health messages in Australia

Philippa H. Youl*, Monika Janda, Michael Kimlin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)


Exposure of the skin to sunlight can cause skin cancer and is also necessary for cutaneous Vitamin D production. Media reports have highlighted the purported health benefits of Vitamin D. Our aim was to examine attitudes and behaviours related to sun protection and Vitamin D. A cross-sectional study of 2,001 residents in Queensland, Australia, aged 20-70 years was undertaken. Information collected included the following: skin cancer risk factors; perceptions about levels of sun exposure required to maintain Vitamin D; belief that sun protection increases risk of Vitamin D deficiency; intention, and actual change in sun protection practices for adults and children. Multivariate models examined predictors of attitudinal and behavioural change. One-third (32%) believed a fair-skinned adult, and 31% thought a child required at least 30 min/day in summer sun to maintain Vitamin D levels. Reductions in sun protection were reported by 21% of adults and 14% of children. Factors associated with the belief that sun protection may result in not obtaining enough Vitamin D included age of ≥60 years (OR = 1.35, 95% CI 1.09-1.66) and having skin that tanned easily (OR = 1.96, 95% CI 1.38-2.78). Participants from low-income households, and those who frequently used sun-protective clothing were more likely to have reduced sun protection practices (OR = 1.33, 95% CI 1.10-1.73 and OR = 1.73, 95% CI 1.36-2.20, respectively). This study provides evidence of reductions in sun protection practices in a population living in a high UV environment. There is an urgent need to refocus messages regarding sun exposure and for continued sun protection practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1963-1970
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2009
Externally publishedYes


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