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Facts About Vitamin D and UV Light

Where can we find the best sources of vitamin D without increasing the risks of skin cancer?

Woman Protecting Skin From Sun Exposure
image credit: ScienceNordic

Primarily, our bodies require vitamin D for strong and healthy bones. This means that without vitamin D, our body cannot use calcium and phosphorus. These are two essential minerals to help build and maintain strong bones.

However, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests that should avoid getting vitamin D from its natural source which is sun exposure. The Academy also does not recommend getting the vitamin from artificial indoor tanning. Ultraviolet or UV radiation from the sun and the tanning beds can cause skin cancer.

Instead, dermatologists recommend getting vitamin D from a healthy diet and other naturally-enriched vitamin D food, fortified foods and drinks, and supplements. It is also advisable to do good practices or safer alternatives that will shield you from sun exposure.

Here are some facts about exposing oneself from the sunlight for a prolonged period of time:

Skin cancer tops the list of cancer in the United States.

Although vitamin D is necessary to build strong bones, overexposure to ultraviolet radiation can lead to skin cancer.

People diagnosed with skin cancer cases continue to increase.

Statistics show that there are approximately one in five Americans will tend to develop skin cancer in his/her lifetime.

One person dies every hour in the United States due to melanoma.

This skin cancer is considered the most severe case of skin cancer. It commonly hits young adults, between 25 and 29 years old. Statistics also show that skin cancer due to melanoma attacks adolescents and young adults between 15 and 29 years old.

UV radiation can lead to premature skin aging and skin cancer.

The World Health Organization, supported by scientific evidence, categorizes the UV radiation from the sun and tanning tools as a cancer-causing agent (carcinogen). UV prolonged exposure can also result in cataracts and suppressed immune responses. However, there is no scientifical evidence as to the safe amount of UV exposure to boost your vitamin D without increasing risks of skin cancer.

People should have vitamin D to absorb calcium and phosphorus as these are vital for the health of the bones.

Vitamin D boosts the efficiency of the body’s of 30-40% calcium, while phosphorous by 80%. Fortified drinks and foods contain vitamin D and calcium and maintain phosphate levels. There are dietary supplements that have these minerals. Take note that getting sufficient vitamin D and calcium is vital to prevent osteoporosis for both men and women in their 50 years of age and older.

Dietary sources of vitamin D prevents premature aging of the skin or the risks of developing skin cancer.

These dietary sources like foods that naturally contain vitamin D, fortified drinks and foods, as well as vitamin supplements can easily be blended into a healthy lifestyle. These food sources are fortified milk, fortified cereal, yogurt and cheeses, oily fish (salmon and tuna). Results about vitamin D supplements show that these are safe and effective when they are taken as instructed by the doctor.

Vitamin D from foods and dietary supplements give you the same benefits, without the risks of skin cancer as compared to vitamin D from the UV light.

Vitamin D cannot be utilized by the body unless it is processed by the liver and kidneys.

Taking vitamin D may not lower cancer mortality.

There may be several studies that showed vitamin D may minimize deaths from skin cancer and/or improve the survival from cancer, there are also some studies that did not verify these observations. Using these studies, the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine or IOM concluded that while scientific proof associates a person’s vitamin D level to the health of the bones, the evidence associating vitamin D with other benefits are “inconsistent, inconclusive, and insufficient.”

Recent scientific evidence supports the major role of calcium and vitamin D to the health of the bones, thus the IOM has this Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin D:

  • 400 IU (International Units) for infants/children 0-1yr
  • 600 IU for children, teenagers, and adults 1-70yr
  • 800 IU for adults 71+ yr

The RDA refers to the intake that covers requirements of 97.5% of the healthy normal population. This RDA that was developed by the IOM was based on the person who has been receiving minimal or without sun exposure. This is because the amount of vitamin D that the person receives from the sun is not consistent and it increases the risks of skin cancer.


The American Academy of Dermatology suggests that those who are concerned about how much enough vitamin D should be taken should meet his/her doctor. The doctors can discuss different safe options for getting enough vitamin D from dietary foods and/or vitamin supplements.

What do you think?

Written by Maria

My passion is helping other people overcome the pain and embarrassment of acne. I have dealt with acne since my teenage years and know first-hand how hard it is to suffer from this condition.

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