Does Tanning Affect Vitamin D Production?

July 14, 2016
Does Tanning Affect Vitamin D Production?

Whether it's true or not, tanned skin seems to elicit perceptions of vitality and good health. In reality, we've come to understand that tanned skin is an indication of excessive sun exposure, which can increase the risk of skin cancer. At the same time, according to a recent study, tanning may also affect vitamin D production in a negative way.
Blocking UV Rays
The body's natural reaction to sun exposure, tanning offers low to moderate protection from sun burns and UV radiation. To see if this protection was enough to hamper the body's ability to produce vitamin D, researchers from the University of Pernambuco Medical School in Recife, Brazil recruited 1,000 subjects between the ages of 13 and 82. All participants boasted tanned skin due to significant daily sun exposure and none took vitamin D supplements or used sunscreen on a regular basis.
After testing the vitamin D levels in each subject's blood, the researchers determined that 72 percent were deficient - a surprising fact, considering how much sunlight the participants received on a daily basis.
What it Means
Because tanned skin indicates sun damage, experts strongly recommend that people avoid sun exposure. At the same time, this study indicates that people who do choose to tan may benefit from vitamin D supplementation.
Likewise, this research also raises concerns about the vitamin D levels in people who regularly use UV-blocking sunscreen. Since a number of studies have linked vitamin D deficiencies to an increased risk of bone problems and certain forms of cancer, many people are having difficulty balancing their concerns about skin cancer risk and vitamin D deficiencies.
What You Can Do
Because vitamin D appears to play such an important role in our health, some health experts suggest that people allow themselves to receive 10 to 15 minutes of unprotected exposure to sunlight three times a week. On the other hand, dermatologists have balked at this recommendation, because any UV exposure advances the risk of skin cancer.
Supplementation seems to be a safer way to meet daily requirements of vitamin D, especially since one person dies of melanoma every 52 minutes. If you would like to begin a vitamin D supplementation regimen, talk to your doctor about an appropriate strategy based on your age, lifestyle and individual health concerns.
Unlike water-soluble vitamins, vitamin D can be toxic when taken at high amounts, so be sure to meet with your doctor before beginning any new supplementation program, especially if you have preexisting health conditions.

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