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For decades, the American Academy of Dermatology has advised the public to practice proper sun protection to prevent skin cancer--and that same advice holds true today, despite any claims to the contrary.
"While the health benefits of vitamin D are well known, it also is well known that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation can cause skin cancer," stated dermatologist C. William Hanke, MD, FAAD, president of the American Academy of Dermatology. "Vitamin D is essential for optimal health, and appropriate amounts of vitamin D can be obtained through a healthy diet which includes naturally enriched vitamin D foods, fortified foods and beverages and/or vitamin supplements. Intentional exposure to UV radiation from the sun (natural) or tanning devices (artificial) is not a safe or effective way to obtain vitamin D."
Current estimates are that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime. It also is estimated that 116,500 people in the United States will be diagnosed with melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, this year. In addition, 8,420 people are expected to die from melanoma this year.
"There is substantial evidence that excessive exposure to any form of UV radiation increases the risk of developing melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. Individuals who intentionally expose themselves to UV radiation for vitamin D are putting themselves at risk for developing skin cancer," said Dr. Hanke. "When you are enjoying yourself outdoors, be smart by taking steps to protect yourself and reduce your risk of skin cancer--seek shade whenever possible, wear sunscreen and cover up with a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves, pants and sunglasses. In addition, avoid tanning beds, which also emit UV radiation."
The amount of vitamin D an individual needs is an active area of research. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that anyone concerned about getting enough vitamin D should discuss their options for obtaining sufficient vitamin D from foods and/or vitamin supplements with their doctor.