Vitamin D and sun protection : the impact of mixed public health messages in Australia
Youl, Philippa, Janda, Monika, & Kimlin, Michael G. (2009) Vitamin D and sun protection : the impact of mixed public health messages in Australia. International Journal of Cancer, 124(8), pp. 1963-1970.
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: 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 minutes per 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 belief that sun protection may result in not obtaining enough vitamin D included aged ≥ 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 re-focus messages regarding sun exposure and for continued sun protection practices.
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