Sun, cancer and vitamin D: American Academy of Dermatology releases position statement

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

The benefits of vitamin D are many.  Fighting off rickets, osteoporosis, cancers, type 2 diabetes and heart disease are just a few.  Used to, everyone got enough vitamin D from sunshine.  But, now, there is a problem.  Skin cancers, including the deadly melanoma, are on the rise, and UV sunlight is a major risk factor.  We don’t know how much sun we can get, if any, without an increased risk.  We are also not sure how much vitamin D is ideal, but the trend is for more.

What is a person to do?

The American Academy of Dermatology issued a position statement on vitamin D acknowledging its importance but insisting you can get enough even if you use sunscreen when outside. But the NIH says you can’t absorb it if you use an sunscreen spf of 8 or better.  Living in a latitude above Boston?  You can’t get enough, period, from November through February.

It is almost impossible to get adequate levels of vitamin D in your diet alone unless you are a dolphin and eat fish (like salmon, mackerel, tuna or sardines) twice every day.

All that’s left is a supplement.  Take your pick, and be sure you get enough calcium, also.  About 1,000 to 1,500 mg of calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D should do the trick (600 if you’re over 71).  Now there is a viable alternative: two teaspoons of cod liver oil daily.  Never underestimate Grandma’s advice.

How are you getting your vitamin D?

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8 Responses to “Sun, cancer and vitamin D: American Academy of Dermatology releases position statement”

  1. Steve Parker, M.D. Says:

    Good info, Dr. Hubbard. I’m glad Vitamin D supplements are so inexpensive.

    Based on studies over the last 5 years, Vitamin D is really looking like an important supplement.

    -Steve

    Steve Parker, M.D.s last blog post..Prepare For Weight Loss, Part 3: Free Will

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

    Thanks, Dr. Parker,
    You make a good point. A medicine that is good for you, and cheap.

  3. Sagan Says:

    Dammit, and I was so hoping I’d never have to take a single supplement my whole life. I’m moving out of Canada.

    Thanks for this information- I will look into this vitamin D business!

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

    Good for you Sagan,

    Eat 2 servings of salmon,mackeral, tuna or sardines every day and you are home free.

  5. FatFighterTV Says:

    Ummm… definitely not taking any of that cod liver oil. No way. I’ll stick to the supplements, thank you!

    FatFighterTVs last blog post..5 fattening festive drinks (and 5 lesser evils)

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

    Fatfighter, I think I will also.

  7. garethb01 Says:

    The canadian cancer society now recommends everyone takes vitamin D daily to prevent cancer. The daily recommended dose in the US of 400IU will hardly touch your blood levels. The experts in vitamin D recommend anywhere between 1000and 5000IU per day. Take a look at http://www.vitaminD3world.com it has some very good summaries and offers a newsletter if you want to keep up to date on developments in this area

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

    Wow garethb01,
    You prove the point of my blog today http://www.familydoctormag.com/blog/2009/03/vitamin-d-may-fight-off-colds-decrease-obesity-etc/ concluding wild claims with megadoses.

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