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Vitamin D

Vitamin D stats and facts

  • Because ultraviolet rays from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer, the American Academy of Dermatology does not recommend getting vitamin D from sun exposure or indoor tanning.1-6

    • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization’s International Agency of Research on Cancer panel have declared UV radiation from the sun and artificial sources, such as tanning beds and sun lamps, to be a known carcinogen (cancer-causing substance).1, 4

    • Unprotected exposure to UV rays from the sun or indoor tanning devices is a known risk factor for the development of skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.3-8

  • To protect against UV-induced skin cancer, dermatologists recommend a comprehensive sun protection plan that includes seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.7-8

  • The AAD recommends getting vitamin D from a healthy diet that includes foods naturally rich in vitamin D, foods and beverages fortified with vitamin D, and/or vitamin D supplements.

  • While vitamin D is critical for healthy bones, vitamin D intake may not lower cancer mortality.9-10

  • While some studies have suggested that vitamin D can reduce deaths from cancer and/or improve cancer survival, other studies have not been able to confirm these observations.11-12

  • The Institute of Medicine (now known as the National Academy of Medicine) concluded that the evidence for associating vitamin D status with health benefits other than bone health was inconsistent, inconclusive as to causality and insufficient to inform nutritional requirement.13-14

  • Based on currently available scientific evidence that supports a key role of calcium and vitamin D in skeletal health, the NAM’s Recommended Dietary Allowance* for vitamin D is:

    • 400 International Units for infants/children 0-1 years

    • 600 IU for children, teenagers and adults 1-70 years

    • 800 IU for adults 71+ years

  • Because the amount of vitamin D a person receives from the sun is inconsistent and increases the risk of skin cancer, the NAM’s RDA was developed based on a person receiving minimal or no sun exposure.

* The RDA is the intake that covers the needs of 97.5 percent of the healthy, normal population. 

Related AAD resources

1U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Toxicology Program. Report on carcinogens, 11th ed: Exposure to sunlamps or sunbeds.

2Melnikova VO, Ananthaswamy HN. Cellular and molecular events leading to the development of skin cancer. Mutat Res 2005; 571(1-2):91-106.

3Whitmore SE, Morison WL, Potten CS, Chadwick C. Tanning salon exposure and molecular alterations. J Am Acad Dermatol 2001; 44:775-80.

4International Agency for Research on Cancer, Working Group on artificial ultraviolet (UV) light and skin cancer. The association of use of sunbeds with cutaneous malignant melanoma and other skin cancer: A systematic review. Int J Cancer 2007; 120(5):1116-22.

5Boniol M, Autier P, Boyle P, Gandini S. Cutaneous melanoma attributable to sunbed use: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2012 Jul 24;345:e4757

6Wehner MR, Shive ML, Chren MM, Han J, Qureshi AA, Linos E, Indoor tanning and non-melanoma skin cancer: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2012 Oct 2;345:e5909

7Van der Pols JC, Williams GM, Pandeya N, Logan V, Green AC. Prolonged prevention of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin by regular sunscreen use. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2006; 15(12):2546-8.

8Green AC, Williams GM, Logan V, Strutton GM. Reduced melanoma after regular sunscreen use: randomized trial follow-up. J Clin Oncol. 2011 Jan 20;29(3):257-63.

9Freedman DM, Looker AC, Abnet CC, Linet MS, Graubard BI. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and cancer mortality in the NHANES III study (1988- 2006). Cancer Res 2010;70(21):8587-97.

10Pilz S, Kienreich K, Tomaschitz A, Ritz E, Lerchbaum E, Obermayer-Pietsch B, Matzi V, Lindenmann J, Marz W, Gandini S, Dekker JM. Vitamin d and cancer mortality: systematic review of prospective epidemiological studies. Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2013 Jan 1;13(1):107-17.

10Bjelakovic G, Gluud LL, Nikolova D, Whitfield K, Krstic G, Wetterslev J, Gluud C. Vitamin D supplementation for prevention of cancer in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Jun 23;6:CD007469.

11Mondul AM, Weinstein SJ, Layne TM , Albanes D. Vitamin D and Cancer Risk and Mortality: State of the Science, Gaps, and Challenges. Epidemiologic reviews 2017:1-21.

12Ross AC, Manson JE, Abrams SA, Aloia JF, Brannon PM, Clinton SK, et al. The 2011 Report on Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D from the Institute of Medicine: What Clinicians Need to Know. J Clin Endocrinol Metab Nov 29 2010 (epub ahead of print)

13Institute of Medicine. 2011 Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.