It’s been known for several years, that vitamin D from sunlight is key for preventing several types of cancer. Ironically this includes several skin cancers, including melanoma. The irony is that, since people have been warned that sunlight exposure causes skin cancer they have been avoiding sun exposure or wearing protective clothing or sun blocking chemicals on their skin. The result has been an increase in skin cancer rates!

Low levels of vitamin D can also make us more prone to:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • weight gain
  • depression
  • auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, MS and Hashimoto’s thyroid disease
  • depressed immune function and more vulnerability to infections
  • osteoporosis, osteopenia and tooth decay

Although the standard for adequate blood vitamin D levels is 30 ng/ml according to most labs. I recommend a minimum of 50 ng/ml for best health. If you have autoimmune problems or are dealing with cancer, you should aim for around 80 ng/ml. If you’re going for 80, you will want to get your blood levels checked every 2 – 3 months. Vitamin D levels of 120 ng/ml can cause kidney problems if they stay there long.

As in many things, moderation and balance are key. Too little sun exposure can result in low vitamin D levels and all the problems above, including skin cancer. Getting burned repeatedly will increase your chances of skin cancer. So, the key is regular sun exposure on as much skin as possible but not enough to burn.

Now, you might be thinking “Why don’t I just take vitamin D supplements? That way I get the benefits of sun exposure without the risk of burning.” Not a bad plan as far as it goes. Actually, we all should take D supplements in the Winter, IMO. One reason there is more colds and flus as well as more depression in the Winter is because of lower vitamin D levels.

A recent study, however, points to the importance of sun exposure in preventing cancers beyond the vitamin D factor. Regular sunlight exposure has been found, for instance, to reduce the risk of prostate cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma but these cancers are not shown to be related to vitamin D levels the way breast and colon cancer are.

So, for a healthier, happier Summer: get out there and enjoy the sun. Try to make it a regular part of your day with as much skin exposed as practical just avoid staying exposed long enough to burn.
Dr. Hogg