Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important for strong bones and good health. The main way we get vitamin D is from sunlight on our skin. Therefore, a balance is needed between being SunSmart to avoid an increased risk of skin cancer and getting enough vitamin D for good health.

The majority of New Zealanders are at greater risk of skin damage and skin cancer, than not getting enough vitamin D.

How do I get enough Vitamin D while being SunSmart?

Healthy adults, who are ‘out and about’ and physically active outdoors, are unlikely to lack vitamin D.

  • Between September and April be SunSmart, especially between 10 am and 4 pm. A daily walk or some other form of outdoor physical activity in the early morning or late afternoon is recommended.
  • Between May and August some sun on your skin outdoors is important so your body can make vitamin D. A daily walk or another form of outdoor physical activity in the hours around noon, with face, arms and hands in the sun, is recommended. 
  • Be SunSmart at any time of the year when you are outside in the mountains or near reflective surfaces such as snow, ice and water.

Who might be vitamin D deficient?

Groups who may not have enough vitamin D are people:

  • people from Africa, the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East, especially if they are covered by veils and full-body coverage clothing.
  • people who must avoid sun exposure because they have had skin cancer; or are on medication which makes their skin very sensitive to the sun
  • people who can’t move about easily, including people who are bed-ridden or chair-bound; who are frail; or are housebound. 

If you are worried about being vitamin D deficient talk to your GP. If you are vitamin D deficient they may prescribe vitamin D tablets. Non-prescribed vitamin D supplements are not recommended as they may not be safe.

Further information on Vitamin D

The Cancer Society, together with other organisations, has developed a consensus statement on Vitamin D which provides information for the general population. A companion statement has since been produced covering Vitamin D and sun exposure in pregnancy and infancy. These can both be found below.

Consensus Statement on Vitamin D and Sun Exposure in New Zealand March 2012

Consensus statement

Companion Statement on Vitamin D and Sun Exposure in Pregnancy and Infancy in New Zealand April 2013. MoH.

Companion statement


Last Updated: Monday 20 April, 2015