Sunlight and vitamin D


University of Manchester research on sunlight and vitamin D helps to solve the challenge of providing public health advice for sunlight exposure that balances the need for adequate vitamin D throughout the year and the risks of sunburn and skin cancer.

The research shows that, for people with lighter skin, daily (or almost daily) sunlight exposure of unprotected skin for just 10-15 minutes during the spring and summer months should provide adequate vitamin D to avoid vitamin D deficiency all year round. For most, this will be a relatively safe level of exposure, balancing the benefits of vitamin D production and the risks of skin cancer. It is important to note that this should be undertaken in the middle of the day, with exposure of lower arms and lower legs to maximise benefit. The research also shows that, for people with darker skin in the UK, 25-40 minutes of exposure under the same conditions will avoid summertime deficiency, and vitamin D supplements should be considered during the winter months.

Importantly, levels of sunlight exposure that make an individual’s skin look pink or sunburnt – either during or some hours after exposure – are too high and should always be avoided. People with very light or sensitive skin and others who may not be able to follow this advice should seek further guidance from their doctor about alternative sources of vitamin D.

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