Dermatologists must be aware that their recommendations to avoid sun exposure may be inadvertently creating other health problems. Image courtesy of thanker212.
UV radiation from sun exposure is associated with an increased risk of skin cancer. But too little sun can result in severe vitamin D deficiency, a common condition that is also linked to cancer. Additionally, low vitamin D is associated with autoimmune disorders and several other diseases.
New research from Stanford University suggests that dermatologists must be aware that their recommendations to avoid sun exposure, particularly for patients at high risk of skin cancer, may be inadvertently creating other health problems.
The study was published in the October issue of the Archives of Dermatology and examined vitamin D levels in patients with a genetic pre-disposition to sun-related skin cancer called basal cell nevus syndrome (BCNS). Vitamin D levels of BCNS patients were significantly lower than control subjects matched for age, skin tone and geographic location.
The best predictors of vitamin D levels in patients were the time of year—levels were higher in the summer—and body mass index. Obesity is known to be linked to vitamin D deficiency since fat soluble vitamin D is more easily sequestered in extraneous body fat.
Lead researcher Dr. Jean Tang says, “Our study shows that skin cancer patients who vigilantly photoprotect are three times at risk for vitamin D deficiency.”
According to Tang, while it is important to warn patients of the dangers of excessive sun exposure, it is equally important to remind them that vitamin D supplementation should be part of their daily regimen to ensure adequate blood levels. The authors of the study recommend at least 1000IU of vitamin D for patients, particularly in winter months.
The research is also relevant to the general population, particularly those who are overweight, have an indoor lifestyle or live north of 35° latitude, all risk factors for vitamin D deficiency. Ideal vitamin D levels should be above 30 ng/mL.