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Fair-skinned 'need' vitamin D supplements


NHS advice about sun exposure has come into conflict with a Cancer Research UK study.

According to NHS advice, people need 10 to 15 minutes of daily exposure to the sun in the summer months without sunscreen to provide them with the necessary amount of vitamin D, which is essential for healthy bones.

However, a new study by the cancer charity shows that some fair-skinned people may not be able to spend this much time in the sun without burning.

The increased risk of skin cancer outweighs any vitamin D benefit, says Cancer Research UK.

The study, published in the journal Cancer Causes and Control, says the body requires at least 60nmol/L of the vitamin, and suggests fair-skinned people may need to take vitamin D supplements to achieve this.

According to some studies, people are at greater risk of heart disease and have lower chances of surviving breast cancer if they have lower levels of vitamin D than this.

Professor Julia Newton-Bishop, lead author of the study, said: “Fair-skinned individuals who burn easily are not able to make enough vitamin D from sunlight and so may need to take vitamin D supplements.

“This should be considered for fair-skinned people living in a mild climate like the UK and melanoma patients in particular.”



Readers' comments (2)

  • The Cancer Recovery Foundation, Children’s Cancer Recovery Project and Breast Cancer Partnership welcome all news highlighting vitamin D deficiencies. However, we believe these new recommendations from Cancer Research UK and the media’s coverage do not go far enough. People are dangerously uninformed about vitamin D deficiencies.

    So who should take vitamin D supplements?
    People with pale skin are not the first to have been linked with low levels of vitamin D. Existing links have been established for everyone: with dark skin, who wear full-body coverings, elderly, young children, pregnant and breastfeeding women and those who avoid the sun. When added together, the number of people likely to have optimum vitamin D levels decreases significantly.

    This combined with our latitude, climate and culture means that many of us in the UK do not get enough vitamin D:

    Cancer Recovery Foundation recommends every adult age 18 and over living in the UK should take a daily vitamin D supplement.

    How much vitamin D is enough?
    There are a range of different recommendations out there. Ours is based on extensive research and with the aim of helping people in the UK to prevent breast and other cancers:

    Cancer Recovery Foundation recommends takes 2000 IU (50mcg) of vitamin D every day. And those living with cancer take 5000 IU.

    Comparing the EC daily allowance?
    The UK does not have its own recommended daily allowance at the moment. We follow a European-wide recommendation which applies equally to countries with much more sun and different ethnicity demographics.

    According to these daily allowances, adults should take 200 IU a day, or 5 micrograms. This is currently being reviewed in the UK as these guidelines do not consider that vitamin D is not only needed for bone health, but to maintain healthy organ function and protect from cancers such as breast, pancreatic and prostate as well as diabetes, MS and other diseases.

    Can we overdose on vitamin D?
    It is possible but rare. This is known as vitamin D toxicity. Documented cases are few and all involve intake of = 40,000 IU per day. The average person can generate 10,000 IU from standing in the midday sun for 15 to 20 minutes.

    What do others say?
    The world debate on vitamin D is being led by Canada where milk is fortified by law with 35-40 IU for every 100ml. Their recommended daily allowance is not as high as Cancer Recovery’s, but it is 3 times the EC’s recommendations.

    The UK review is being led by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition’s Vitamin D Working Group, but their conclusions will not be released for some years.

    Cancer Recovery Group International founder, Greg Anderson says, “Vitamin D deficiency is now correlated with a host of disease, most notably breast and prostate cancers. I stand by our ground-breaking recommendations of 1999: adults should supplement daily with vitamin D. And as the research has become more definitive, Cancer Recovery Group now recommends healthy adults supplement at the rate of 2,000 IU per day. For cancer patients, supplement at 5,000 IU daily.”

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  • might as well carry on with a poor british diet and take vitamin supplements of every letter of the alphabet.

    how did our fair skinned nordics and cavemen survive before good old Boots and medical researchers telling us what we should and shouldn't consume?

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