American Academy of Dermatology Association Reconfirms Need to Boost Vitamin D Intake Through Diet and Nutritional Supplements Rather Than Ultraviolet Radiation
May 2, 2005
Consensus Conference Acknowledges Some Populations Most Vulnerable to Nutrient Deficiency
NEW YORK, May 2 /PRNewswire/ -- Based on data reviewed by a consensus
conference convened by the American Academy of Dermatology Association
(Academy) to examine the relationship between sunlight, tanning booths and
vitamin D, renowned medical experts agreed that increasing exposure to either
natural or artificial ultraviolet (UV) light should not be recommended as a
supplemental source of vitamin D. However, the conference experts noted that
there is growing evidence demonstrating that many people in the U.S. -
particularly older adults, women, and darker-skinned individuals - may have
vitamin D levels below those necessary for optimum health.
Speaking today at the Academy's Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and
Prevention Month news conference, dermatologist Vincent A. DeLeo, M.D.,
associate professor of clinical dermatology, Columbia University, New York,
N.Y., and chairman of the department of dermatology at both St. Luke's
Roosevelt and Beth Israel Hospital Centers, New York, N.Y., presented findings
from the conference white paper published in the May 2005 issue of the Journal
of the American Academy of Dermatology reviewing the data on sunlight, tanning
booths and vitamin D.
"It is known that there is a high risk of developing skin cancer from
repeated and intentional ultraviolet B exposure to boost vitamin D levels; the
latter can be safely achieved by nutritional supplements," said Dr. DeLeo.
"Skin cancer is an epidemic in this country and recommending increased UV
exposure with claims that sunlight somehow promotes good health is highly
The benefits of vitamin D are well documented and include, most notably,
improved bone health and fracture prevention, better muscle health and a
reduced risk of falling in older individuals. While these benefits are
particularly important for older adults who are at risk to developing
osteoporosis, research suggests that this age group is most prone to vitamin D
deficiencies and requires the highest recommended daily intake. Currently,
the recommended intakes of vitamin D by age group are 200 International Units
per day (IU/d) for young adults, 400 IU/d for those aged 51 to 70 years, and
600 IU/d for those over age 70. There is evidence however that these
recommended levels are too low for optimum health. Without supplemental
dosages of vitamin D, experts warn that older individuals are not getting
enough of the nutrient they need through incidental sun exposure or foods.
"When people age, their skin becomes less equipped to process vitamin D
absorption through incidental sun exposure," said Dr. DeLeo. "Since their
daily vitamin D requirements are so much higher than their younger
counterparts, it is very important that they take vitamin D supplements and
increase their intake of vitamin D enriched foods such as milk and other
fortified dairy products, fortified orange juice and certain kinds of fish."
Another population most at risk for vitamin D deficiency is darker-skinned
individuals, whose increased melanin, the natural substance that gives skin
its pigment, reduces the skin's ability to photosynthesize vitamin D. Whereas
lighter-skinned individuals will generate some vitamin D production from
incidental sun exposure, those with darker-pigmented skin require longer
exposure times to achieve a similar result. In addition, darker-skinned
individuals as a whole also are more likely to be lactose intolerant and
consume less milk -- one of the main sources of vitamin D. Dr. DeLeo noted
that this group may need to take nutritional supplements of vitamin D and
consume other vitamin D enriched foods to ensure adequate vitamin D levels.
For those individuals who don't fall into the two groups most at risk for
vitamin D deficiency, experts still caution them against relying on
intentional ultraviolet exposure for vitamin D production as some
controversial studies would recommend. Photosynthesizing vitamin D through
natural sunlight is maximized after 20 minutes of ultraviolet B (UVB)
exposure, with extended sun exposure providing no additional benefit but
instead increasing the likelihood of photodamage and skin cancer.
"There is certainly ample scientific evidence proving that vitamin D does
not need to be produced from UVB exposure to be effective," said Dr. DeLeo.
"Under no circumstances should anyone be misled into thinking that natural
sunlight or tanning beds are better sources of vitamin D than foods or
nutritional supplements. The only thing they are proven to be better at is
increasing your risk of developing skin cancer."
Several national and international studies have found that the amount of
daily incidental sun exposure the average person receives is adequate for
vitamin D production to occur.
For instance, it has been estimated previously that for individuals with
skin phototype II (which includes fairer-skinned individuals that tend to burn
easily from unprotected sun exposure), five minutes of noontime summer sun
exposure two-to-three times per week is more than adequate to satisfy the
body's requirement for vitamin D. The study suggests that this level of sun
exposure was easily achieved through incidental exposure.
In addition, there is so much scientific evidence to support the fact that
UV radiation causes skin cancer that the United States Department of Health
and Human Services lists ultraviolet radiation from the sun or artificial
light sources such as tanning beds and sun lamps as a known carcinogen.
"The average person receives enough incidental sun exposure to achieve
recommended vitamin D levels," said Dr. DeLeo. "Our message is simple: Don't
Seek the Sun."
At current rates, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer during
their lifetime. It is estimated that 105,750 people in the United States will
be diagnosed with melanoma (the most serious form of skin cancer) this year -
a 10 percent increase in new cases of melanoma from 2004. Melanoma will claim
approximately 7,770 lives this year alone.
For more information about skin cancer, visit the Academy's patient
education Web site at http://www.skincarephysicians.com and select
Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology
(Academy), founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most
representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more
than 14,000 physicians worldwide, the Academy is committed to: advancing the
diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and
nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research
in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of
healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the Academy at
1-888-462-DERM (3376) or http://www.aad.org.
SOURCE American Academy of Dermatology
Web Site: http://www.aad.org http://www.skincarephysicians.com
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