Spatio-temporal patterns in sun exposure underlie variations in skin cancer incidence and vitamin D deficiency, indicate effectiveness of sun protection programs and provide insights into future health risks. From 558 adults across four regions of Australia (Brisbane (27°S), Newcastle (33°S), Geelong and the Western Districts of Victoria (37°S) and Tasmania (43°S)), we collected: self-report data on time-in-the-sun from age 6 years; natural skin color and ethnicity; silicone skin casts (for cumulative skin damage); and serum for vitamin D status. Ambient ultraviolet radiation (UVR) at the location of residence, with time-in-the-sun, was used to calculate a “UVR dose” for each year of life. Individuals maintained their ranking compared to their peers for time-in-the-sun in summer compared to winter and across ages (Spearman rho 0.24–0.84, all P < 0.001). Time-in-the-sun decreased with age in all birth cohorts, and over calendar time. Summer time-in-the-sun increased with increasing latitude (P < 0.001). Seasonal variation in vitamin D status had greater amplitude and vitamin D deficiency increased with increasing latitude. Temporal patterns are consistent with effectiveness of sun protection programs. Higher relative time-in-the-sun persists from childhood through adulthood. Lower summer time-in-the-sun in the warmest location may have implications for predictions of UVR-related health risks of climate change.
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