A question I get often is how to balance protecting yourself from the sun to decrease skin cancer risk and photo-aging with the concern for Vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D is also known as the “sun light vitamin” as it forms in the skin from ultraviolet light (UV) exposure. Vitamin D has been all over the news recently with articles saying it prevents against everything from high blood pressure to cancer.

What we do know is that Vitamin D is important for the immune system and bone health. Recent studies have also shown that Vitamin D may lower the risk of certain cancers, particularly colorectal cancer. Other studies have shown possible benefit in breast and prostate cancer.

We also know that unprotected UV exposure results in higher risk of skin cancer and aging skin.

Most of us have adequate Vitamin D levels in our bodies from the combination of small amounts of sun exposure and our diets, as Vitamin D is supplemented in many of our foods.

Additional Vitamin D through oral supplementation may be a good idea for certain groups with a higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency:

1) Adults over 50 years old
2) People with darker skin
3) Those living in northern latitudes (live New York), those that are home bound, or cover themselves for religious reasons
4) Infants who are breast fed only
5) Those with medical conditions preventing adequate fat absorption

My advice is to listen to The Skin Cancer Foundation….

“The Foundation cautions the public against intentional exposure to natural sunlight or artificial UV radiation (tanning beds) as a means of obtaining vitamin D, since the health risks of UV exposure – including skin cancer and premature skin aging – are significant and well proven.

The Skin Cancer Foundation supports The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies’ Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin D, which is 600 IU (International Units) a day for people between the ages of 1 and 70, and 800 IU a day for people ages 70 and older. For children under 1 year, adequate intake (AI) is 400 IU a day.”

For more info check out these links from the Skin Cancer Foundation, American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute.