Background/purpose: Investigations have revealed that vitamin D plays an important role in many areas of health and disease. Questions over whether sun avoidance and sunscreen use will decrease vitamin D levels may concern clinicians when counseling patients at risk for vitamin D insufficiency. A review of the role of vitamin D in health and disease, the impact of photoprotection and skin type on vitamin D levels, and recommendations for adequate vitamin D intake is provided to aid clinicians in counseling patients regarding these issues.
Results: Review of the literature indicates that adequate vitamin D intake is associated with decreased risk of falls and bone fractures in the elderly, breast and gastrointestinal cancer risk, cardiovascular disease, and possibly all cause mortality, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis. While skin type does affect vitamin D levels, regular use of sunscreen is not associated with vitamin D insufficiency.
Conclusions: Adequate intake of vitamin D is important for maintenance of good health, and may be achieved through diet and oral supplementation. Intentional or prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light should not be used as a means of obtaining vitamin D.