New Study: Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Skin Cancer

If you're vigilant about sun protection to help prevent skin cancer--good for you! But a new study shows that avoiding the sun may result in an unhealthy side effect; a deficiency in vitamin D.

Researchers found that vitamin D deficiency is more and more common among those with a genetic predisposition to sun-related skin cancers known as basal cell nevus syndrome.

The study showed that those with basal cell nevus syndrome were three times more likely to have low vitamin D levels than individuals who did not have basal cell nevus syndrome.

?Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with an increased risk of autoimmune disease, fractures, cancer, cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality,? writes researcher Jean Y. Tang, MD, PhD of Stanford University, and colleagues in the Archives of Dermatology. ?There is increasing concern that sun protection, recommended by dermatologists to prevent further UV damage in populations susceptible to skin cancer, may result in abnormally low levels of [vitamin D], which may have subsequent detrimental effects on health.?

Reducing Sun Exposure

Often, individuals with basal cell nevus syndrome will develop some cancerous skin lesions in their 20s or 30s.

As a result, of this diagnosis, they are advised to take steps to reduce their sun exposure and skin cancer risk by using sunscreen and avoiding the sun during the heat of the day--good advice, but it may leave people with less vitamin D than they need, which can have negative affects on health.

While sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, it is also found in fortified milk, butter, eggs, fish liver oils, and supplements, so patients can still get the vitamins they need without risking sun damage. Researchers say it's not surprising to find high levels of vitamin D deficiency in people at risk for skin cancer, but the extent of the issue was suprising. The researchers recommend that more studies are done to determine the ideal amount of vitamin D supplementation needed for preventing deficiency in people in the general population, who may not have basal cell nevus syndrome but routinely use sunscreen and other methods of sun protection.

To learn more about skin cancer and other skin conditions, click here.

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