For years now we have been exhorted to avoid the sun, to cover up and to use sun screen so we can avoid getting skin cancer. However, unfortunately it looks as though we have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. We desperately need some sun on our skin to make vitamin D, and a lot more of it than the doctors and health people have been recommending for a long time.

We have known for years that we need vitamin D and calcium for strong bones and the recommended vitamin D levels were set when the major concern was to avoid rickets in children. Later vitamin D became a concern because older people were developing osteoporosis and needed to strengthen their bones to see them through their old age.

Vitamin D is usually metabolized by the body from sunlight but in these days of “slip, slop, slap” of sunscreen, too many of us are now avoiding the sun when we should be reveling in it for at least a few hours each week – but do be careful, we still want to avoid getting burnt.

Most people are now vitamin D deficient and this is having a terrible consequence. We are finding more and more diseases which are made worse by lack of vitamin D. A range of cancers are made more likely by a lack of vitamin D, as is multiple sclerosis and diabetes.

An article in the Annals of Epidemiology, published early in 2009 said that women who had high levels of Vitamin D had less than half the chance of getting breast cancer and only one quarter the chance of dying from it than those who had the lowest levels.

Think about that for a moment. The journal article suggests a woman can cut their risk of getting breast cancer by more than half? And their chance of dying of it by three quarters? Why are we not hearing that being trumpeted from the roof tops?

One of the problems is that medicine has got itself caught up in a mess – a research mess. Medicine has developed a good way of working out whether a drug will improve outcomes. However most research is done by drug companies but because there isn’t a large profit to be made it just isn’t worth it to them. In addition most of the research and medical agenda has been hijacked by the drug companies so that even when a non-drug, natural activity or supplement is found to be useful there is a strong inertia in the medical profession to taking it up.

It is time to take responsibility for your own health and get out in the sun or go get some Vitamin D3 from your local pharmacist as almost everyone in the developed world is now deficient. You need 2000IU per day as a minimum. However next time you go to see your family physician or go to have a blood test then ask for a Vitamin D blood test as some people have very low levels and need to have higher doses of Vitamin D than 2000IU daily to get their levels up to a reasonable level quickly.

P.S. If you are still worried about the skin cancer problem then think on this: skin cancer kills some 1600 people a year in Australia. This is not good. But lack of vitamin D kills over 3000 people a year from breast cancer in Australia and over 4000 people a year from colorectal cancer. This is much worse.