West Australians will take part in an Australian-first study that uses "dosimeters" to measure if people are getting enough vitamin D from the sun or should take supplements.
Health experts have wrestled with the problem of ensuring people get enough vitamin D without risking sunburn and skin cancer amid concerns office workers are not outside enough.
Vitamin D is needed to keep muscles, bones and the immune system healthy and most Australians get more than 90 per cent of what they need from sunlight.
But researchers are unsure if the many people with low vitamin D levels should spend more time in the sun or take supplements, given Australia has the worst skin cancer rates.
The sun exposure vitamin D supplementation, or SEDS, study, for Cancer Australia and partly run by the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, will recruit almost 1000 people in Perth, Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane. They spend different periods in the sun and wear the dosimeter wristbands that measure UV radiation and sun monitors that sound when their skin type has had enough exposure.
Australian National University academic and chief resear-cher Robyn Lucas said the aim was to find out how much sun people got and if there were ways to get enough vitamin D by changing behaviour. Also whether it was better to stay out of the sun or take a supplement.
"Something I'm interested in is whether the only health benefits of sun exposure is vitamin D or whether there are other benefits you would not get from taking a supplement, and there is some evidence of this," Dr Lucas said.
Co-investigator Terry Slevin from Cancer Council WA said the dosimeter would objectively measure UV exposure. He said the study would address things not known about vitamin D, such as on dosages and benefits of supplements and whether more precise UV exposure could achieve the same effect.See sedsstudy.org for details.