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Avoiding sun exposure may lead to vitamin D deficiency in Caucasians

A new Stanford study shows that light-skinned people who avoid the sun are more likely to suffer from vitamin D deficiency than others. As my colleague details in a recent news release:

[The team] analyzed population-base data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2003 to 2006. The survey included questions about sun-protective behavior, inquiring whether respondents frequently wore long sleeves, hats and sunscreen, and whether they sought out shade on sunny days. It also included each respondent’s race, as well as their blood levels of a form of vitamin D called 25-hydroxyvitamin D.

The researchers found that Caucasians who avoided the sun with clothing or stayed in the shade had blood levels of vitamin D that were about 3.5 and 2.2 nanograms per milliliter lower than those who did not report such behavior. In contrast, the association between sun avoidance and reductions in vitamin D levels in Hispanic or African-American survey-takers was not statistically significant...

Given the importance of vitamin D - too little of it causes bone weakening and rickets and may contribute to other chronic diseases including cancer - the research should give experts something to think about:

The study adds to a growing debate about how to balance the dangers of sun exposure with the need for appropriate levels of vitamin D to prevent bone diseases such as osteoporosis and rickets.

“It’s not as simple as telling everyone to wear sunscreen,” said dermatologist Eleni Linos, MD, PhD. “We may instead need to begin tailoring our recommendations to the skin tones and lifestyles of individual patients. It’s clearly a very complex issue.”

The paper is being published in Cancer Causes and Control.

Previously: Study links calcium plus vitamin D to decreased melanoma risk, Study finds high prevalence of vitamin-D deficiency among skin cancer patients and What’s the deal with vitamin D?
Photo by ktylerconk

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