Does the Use of Sunscreen Cause Vitamin D Deficiency with UV Protection Advantage

Vitamin D Deficiency and the Use of Sunscreen

Vitamin D Deficiency and UV Protection
Vitamin D Deficiency and UV Protection

Dr. Holick looks at how vitamin D is derived from sun exposure and provides global recognition for how exposure to sunlight is important to bone health.

The UV Advantage by Dr. Michael Holick

Sunshine is good for you! While too much sun causes wrinkles and raises other health concerns, a lack of sun exposure, our primary source of vitamin D can cause serious health problems, such as osteoporosis, certain cancers, and diabetes. Dr. Holick, the discoverer of the active form of vitamin D, has pulled together an impressive body of evidence in support that no one should be-as he puts it- a sunphobe, or, for that matter, a sun worshipper. His conclusion: relatively brief, but unfettered exposure to sunshine and its equivalent can help to ward off a host of debilitating and sometimes deadly diseases, including osteoporosis, cancers of the colon, prostate and breast, hypertension, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and depression.

Should We Wear Sunscreen?

Should We Wear Sunscreen and What UV Protection?
Should We Wear Sunscreen and What UV Protection?

Does Sunscreen Prevent Vitamin D Production?


Dermatologists routinely talk of the need to wear sunscreen. But the body needs sunlight to produce vitamin D, a crucial nutrient.

So, is it possible that wearing sunscreen might interfere with the synthesis of vitamin D?

Yes. Studies have found that by blocking ultraviolet rays, sunscreen limits the vitamin D we produce. But the question is to what extent.


Health Benefits of Vitamin D

The majority of the body’s supply of vitamin D, unlike most other vitamins, does not come from food. It is produced in our skin when we are exposed to ultraviolet light from the sun. About 90 percent of our total supply of vitamin D is obtained this way.

Vitamin D is essential for promoting calcium absorption and in maintaining normal mineralization of bone. Without sufficient vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen. It is also essential in the modulation of neuromuscular and immune function and reduction of inflammation.

Several studies observing large groups of people have found that those with higher vitamin D levels also had lower rates of cancer. About a dozen major studies are under way to test vitamin D’s ability to ward off cancer, said Dr. Peter Greenwald, chief of cancer prevention for the National Cancer Institute. Several others are testing its potential to treat the disease. Two recent studies reported encouraging signs in prostate and lung cancer.

Is Complete UV Protection Necessary?

UV Protection and Vitamin D
UV Protection and Vitamin D

Vitamin D Deficiency is a Serious Health Concern

A number of scientists now believe that our growing use of sunscreens and reduced time spent outdoors could consequently be contributing to an increasing incidence of vitamin D deficiency – and thus to an increased risk of disease.

Government advisers can’t agree on an RDA, or recommended daily allowance for vitamin D. Instead, they say “adequate intake” is 200 international units a day up to age 50, 400 IUs for ages 50 to 70, and 600 IUs for people over 70. However, many scientists think adults need 1,000 IUs a day, while other research suggests 1,500 IUs might be needed to significantly curb cancer.

If we need 1,000 IUs of vitamin D a day, a glass of milk supplies only 100 units and a multivitamin only 400. One problem with the use of supplements for obtaining the necessary vitamin D, is that most typically contain only small amounts of D-2 and include vitamin A, which offsets many of D’s benefits. So, most people need the sun in order to avoid deficiency. New research has found that wearing sunscreen continuously can reduce the amount of vitamin D a person is able to make.

Dr. Michael Holick helped in the landmark discovery of how vitamin D works. He was chief of endocrinology, nutrition and diabetes and a professor of dermatology at Boston University. He has also published a book, “The UV Advantage,” urging people to get enough sunlight to make vitamin D.

“I am advocating common sense,” not prolonged sunbathing or tanning salons, Holick said.

Dr. Holick states that skin cancer is rarely fatal. The most deadly form, melanoma, accounts for only 8,650 of the 55,888 cancer deaths expected to occur in the United States in 2009. Repeated sunburns have been linked to melanoma, but there is no credible scientific evidence that moderate sun exposure causes it, Holick contends.

“The problem has been that the American Academy of Dermatology has been unchallenged for 20 years,” he says. “They have brainwashed the public at every level.”

“The statement that ‘no sun exposure is good’ I don’t think is correct anymore,” said Dr. Henry Lim, chairman of dermatology at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit and an academy vice president.

Vitamin D, is nicknamed the “sunshine vitamin” because the skin makes it from ultraviolet rays. Sunscreen blocks its production, but dermatologists and health agencies have long preached that such lotions are needed to prevent skin cancer. Now some scientists are questioning that advice. The reason is that vitamin D increasingly seems important for preventing and even treating many types of cancer. So the thinking is this: Even if too much sun leads to skin cancer, which is rarely deadly, too little sun may be worse.

No one is suggesting that people fry on a beach. But many scientists believe that “safe sun” – 15 minutes or so a few times a week without sunscreen – is not only possible but helpful to health.

As for sunshine, experts recommend moderation until more evidence is in hand. “The skin can handle it, just like the liver can handle alcohol,” said Dr. James Leyden, professor emeritus of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania. “I like to have wine with dinner, but I don’t think I should drink four bottles a day.”

Dr. Edward Giovannucci, a Harvard University professor of medicine and nutrition, has said, “I would challenge anyone to find an area or nutrient or any factor that has such consistent anti-cancer benefits as vitamin D. The data are really quite remarkable.” He also suggests that “vitamin D might help prevent 30 deaths for each one caused by skin cancer.”

Dr. Giovannucci laid out his case in a keynote lecture at a recent American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Anaheim, California. The talk so impressed the American Cancer Society’s chief epidemiologist, Dr. Michael Thun, that the society is reviewing its sun protection guidelines. “There is now intriguing evidence that vitamin D may have a role in the prevention as well as treatment of certain cancers,” Thun said.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-05-21-doctors-sunshine-good_x.htm

It is clear that vitamin D is a vital substance for human beings and that sunlight is the way nature intended us to obtain it, but what about avoiding the damaging effects of sun exposure? Certainly one wouldn’t be wise to throw all caution to the wind and spend hours unprotected in full sunlight in an attempt to get enough vitamin D. Yet sunscreen manufacturers and most dermatologists suggest applying sunscreen at least 20 minutes before sun exposure, and then frequently reapplying over the course of the day. Without UV exposure, the body does not produce vitamin D. So it would be reasonable to suggest that sunscreen use has been a contributing factor in producing vitamin D deficiency in children (as well as adults), though it is certainly compounded by the fact that most children and adults spend far too much time indoors looking at screens.

While some unprotected sun exposure may well be a good thing, excessive exposure can undoubtedly cause fatal skin cancers. Perhaps it would be best advised to heed the words of the Greek poet Hesiod, who, as early as 700 B.C., wisely wrote that “moderation is best in all things.”

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Comments 17 comments

DePuy Pinnacle lawsuit 5 years ago

Although vitamin D deficiency should be prevented, wearing sunscreen to prevent skin cancer is also important. Vitamin D is so important for maintaining healthy bones, especially those suffering the adverse effects of a defective DePuy Pinnacle hip replacement system. Thanks for the information!


Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago Author

Thanks you itakins! I'm glad you liked it.


itakins profile image

itakins 6 years ago from Irl

Brilliant brilliant-love it:)


Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago Author

Thanks Amanda, it's definitely something more people need to be made aware of. I discovered last summer that I was very deficient in vitamin D and I live in sunny Florida. I never thought I was "at risk." Now I take supplements to help bring my levels up.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 6 years ago from UK

Lamme, this is something that I've often wondered about. I knew that vitamin D is derived from the action of sunlight on the skin, and it had occurred to me that if we cover up too efficiently then we risk getting an insufficient supply. Thank you for confirming my suspicions in this excellent and informative hub!


Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago Author

jayjay, that's right ... rickets is increasing and so are a number of other diseases that could be avoided with proper sun exposure. Thanks for reading and commenting.


jayjay40 profile image

jayjay40 6 years ago from Bristol England

A very good hub, great advice. Vitamin D is very essential for calcium absorption I've heard that Rickets in children is on the increase.


Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago Author

Thanks magnoliazz ... it seems people don't get the idea of moderation. It's an all or nothing situation. The only research I've found that shows vitamin D production while using sunscreen, involved improper coverage of the sunscreen. So, the "experts" think that since we're not smart enough to put the sunscreen on accurately, we don't need to be told that we should spend some time in the sun unprotected. A little sun can go a long way in providing needed health benefits.


magnoliazz profile image

magnoliazz 6 years ago from Wisconsin

If you avoid the sun between 10-2, you really don't need sunscreen.

Yes, sunlight IS good for you! You should also avoid wearing sunglasses, because it is very important that sunlight reaches your eyes. It sets off a complex reaction in the brain that banishes depression!

Baking hours in the sun, getting a tan is where the trouble starts.

Like all things, common sense and moderation are the key!

Another excellent hub Lamme! Thank you!


Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago Author

Hi Seen of TV, I hadn't heard about it's benefits for health. I'll have to look into that. Vitamin D is a very important vitamin that so many of us don't get enough of. Thanks for your comment.


Seen On TV profile image

Seen On TV 6 years ago

Been hearing, and learning a lot about Vitamin D lately. I first was interested because of studies about hair health in Britain. I've been taking it ever since.


Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago Author

Teresa, thanks for your comments. I've been reading your hubs as well.


Teresa Laurente profile image

Teresa Laurente 6 years ago from San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A.

Great hub. Useful reminders. Thank you for sharing.


Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago Author

Thanks Micky Dee ... I think we need to rethink some of the advice we've been given regarding sun exposure. Not that I advocate baking ourselves, just sensible, moderate exposure.


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

Great job! Thank you!


Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago Author

Thanks drbj, I found out the hard way about vitamin D deficiency. It really is something people need to be more aware of. Thanks for reading.


drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida

Very thorough, Lamme. You did your research and it shows. Interesting read and you could also say it provides a public service since many people are unaware of the benefits of Vitamin D and the dangers of deficiency.

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