“Sun kills!” “Sun provides vitamin D!” How much is too much? The controversy.

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

If you ask most dermatologists how much sun should you get, they’ll probably say “none.” In fact, a dermatology professor at a medical school was fired a few years back after publicly touting sun exposure for vitamin D a little too much.

Any amount of sun exposure can cause skin damage, leading to increased risk of wrinkles and cancer. But it is fun to get outside in the fresh air and exercise. Can’t we get a little sun?

In fact, a lot of nondermatologists suggest that we do just that.

You need vitamin D to absorb calcium, and prevent osteoporosis and rickets. Recent studies have shown possible links between vitamin D and preventing heart disease, colon cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer. “According to several studies, 40 to 100 percent of U.S. and European men and women … are deficient in vitamin D,” says Michael F. Holick, M.D., Ph.D., in a 2007 review in the New England Journal of Medicine.

It is difficult to get enough in your diet. Even with supplements, a lot of people don’t absorb adequate amounts. The only other source is sunshine. Many nondermatological studies suggest that about 15 minutes of sun three times a week in the early morning or late evening is a good compromise. I think so, too.

There is a good summary of vitamin D at the NIH site . JHMFD has several good articles, including:

What do you think?

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4 Responses to ““Sun kills!” “Sun provides vitamin D!” How much is too much? The controversy.”

  1. Mark Salinas Says:

    Important article. It is a challenge to say the least when trying to determine if I am getting to much sun or enough sun. Vitamin D is so important and I would welcome a consistent, safe alternative. Does this option exist? What about these lamps that claim to have the “benefits” of the sun with out the “drawbacks?”

    Mark Salinass last blog post..Top Lists

  2. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H Says:

    Hi Mark,
    Excellent question. You need uv light to make vitamin D in your body. Any uv light damages your skin. So if these lamps help in making vitamin D they damage the skin. A few minutes in the sun is your best alternative.

  3. James Hubbard’s My Family Doctor Blog » Blog Archive » Double recommended dose of vitamin D for kids, says American Academy of Pediatrics Says:

    [...] You can read more with more links at my past blog on vitamin d and the sun. [...]

  4. James Hubbard’s My Family Doctor Blog » Blog Archive » Vitamin D fights off colds, obesity, cancer … really? The newest miracle vitamin. Says:

    [...] the sun and exercise as much? Lack of exercise could be the real cause.  (I’ve talked about how our body makes vitamin D with the sun’s help.)  Or what if they just doesn’t eat as many vegetables and [...]

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