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Information on the latest vitamin D news and research.

Find out more information on deficiency, supplementation, sun exposure, and how vitamin D relates to your health.

Which is better to prevent cancer, sunlight or vitamin D?

I like it when a paper begins by assuming sunlight and vitamin D both help prevent internal cancers, not just vitamin D. Recently, that is exactly what Dr. Han van der Rhee and colleagues from the Netherlands did in asking an important question, which is better to prevent cancer, sunlight or vitamin D?

van der Rhee H, Coebergh JW, de Vries E. Is prevention of cancer by sun exposure more than just the effect of vitamin D? A systematic review of epidemiological studies. Eur J Cancer. 2012 Dec 10.

They report the following:

  1. Evidence is quite strong that sunlight prevents colorectal, breast, prostate and lymphoma.
  2. Most studies of melanoma show that chronic sun exposure decreases the risk of melanoma.
  3. The association of vitamin D deficiency and cancer is strongest for colorectal cancer.
  4. Besides vitamin D, sunlight may prevent cancer by regulating the circadian rhythm, the body’s internal clock, as studies show disruption of that clock is associated with cancer.
  5. Sunlight exposure can increase melatonin secretion at night and melatonin has anti-cancer effects.
  6. In breast cancer, melatonin increases the sensitivity of cancer cells to the anti-cancer effects of vitamin D.
  7. Sunlight degrades folic acid in the skin and this may play a role in preventing cancer.

The authors summed up by saying,

“The evidence that chronic (not intermittent) sun exposure decreases the risk of colorectal, breast, prostate cancer and lymphoma is accumulating and gradually getting stronger. We therefore think that, particularly in countries with moderate climate, intermittent sun exposure (and sunburn) should on the one hand be discouraged, because of skin cancer prevention, while on the other hand (moderate) chronic sun exposure possibly should be advised.”

We agree.

In fact, we believe that avoidance of sunlight and UV is so unnatural, that we recommend sunbathing in the summer and sunbed use in the winter as a natural way of maintaining natural vitamin D levels. Just be sure the sunbed you choose in a suntan parlor is an old-fashioned low-pressure sunbed.

  About: John Cannell, MD

Dr. John Cannell is founder of the Vitamin D Council. He has written many peer-reviewed papers on vitamin D and speaks frequently across the United States on the subject. Dr. Cannell holds an M.D. and has served the medical field as a general practitioner, emergency physician, and psychiatrist.

3 Responses to Which is better to prevent cancer, sunlight or vitamin D?

  1. omegagx says:

    How about using “narrow UVB” lamps by Solarc? http://www.solarcsystems.com/vitamin-d-phototherapy-faq.html

    SolRx 500-series seems to be ideal: http://www.solarcsystems.com/narrowband_uvb.html

    What do you think?

    • Brant Cebulla says:

      omegagx, I believe the owner of Solarc is a Council member. Perhaps he’ll join in the conversation?

      The UVB sunbeds are low-pressure and emit some UVB, similar to the sun. So as far as our “use low-pressure sunbeds that have some UVB”, they fit our recommendation.

  2. I purchased and installed a much lower cost UVB lamp next to my bathroom mirror.

    I measured its output with a UVB meter calibrated in units of vitamin D.

    $195 lamp provides at least 1000 IU per 5 minutes at a distance of 2 feet.

    (For type II skin (white, but not super sensitive), age 66)

    The page also has information on another supplier – Sperti

    Details and photos at http://is.gd/Dlamps

    “At least” 1000 IU. It may produce more than 1000 IU/5 minutes since it is not hindered by having any UVA.