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February 4, 2023

If you spend a lot of time in the sun, you’ve probably worried about your risk of melanoma. This type of skin cancer can be deadly when left untreated and leaves many of us nervous about new moles or freckles (rightfully so). 

Fortunately, a new study suggests there might be a way you can lower your risk of developing skin cancer that goes beyond proper sunscreen use. 


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How vitamin D affects your risk of skin cancer.

The study, published in Melanoma Research, looked at whether taking vitamin D had any effect on the risk of skin cancer. It examined 498 adults between the ages of 21 and 79, with an almost equal representation of males and females. The subjects were split into three groups based on whether they did not take vitamin D, took them occasionally, or took them regularly. 

The study found that those who took vitamin D (in addition to one’s diet, as a supplement) regularly were less likely to have melanoma or any other type of skin cancer than those who never took additional vitamin D. Even study participants with weakened immune systems saw a decrease in their chance of developing skin cancer when they took vitamin D through a targeted supplement regularly. 

This research suggests that regularly maintaining healthy vitamin D status may decrease your chance of developing melanoma, but scientists still aren’t sure why. This topic has also remained controversial because some studies, like this one, suggest that increased vitamin D levels can reduce the risk of skin cancer, while other studies1 have found no correlation. While further evidence is needed to understand exactly how your vitamin D status affects your risk of developing skin cancer, there is no denying the importance of this vitamin. 

Why vitamin D is so important. 

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that supports a number of critical physiological functions in the body—including supporting thyroid health, improving immunity, and building strong bones. A deficiency in vitamin D can result in a long list of less-than-ideal physical and mental symptoms—such as poor bone health, brain fog, a weakened immune system, and a negative mood

Although it’s arguably one of the most important vitamins for whole-body health, most people don’t get enough of it. In fact, 29% of U.S. adults2 are deficient in vitamin D and an additional 41% are insufficient, even though we can get the vital nutrient through multiple sources (namely: sunlight, food, and supplements).

Of course, the fact that our bodies can absorb vitamin D through the sun may contribute to why so many people are deficient. Most people do not get enough sunlight throughout the day to reach optimal vitamin D levels, especially those who live in northern climates. Wearing sunscreen also inhibits this process (but you should definitely still wear sunscreen to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer), so even if you get outside every day, you probably aren’t getting enough vitamin D from the sun alone. 


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How to increase your vitamin D levels.

So if the sun isn’t enough, how can you make sure you get enough vitamin D? Vitamin D can be found in dairy and fish products like yogurt, eggs, cheese, and salmon. However, the amount is relatively small, and it’s difficult for most people to get enough vitamin D from food alone. 

The best way to ensure that you are getting enough of the sunshine vitamin is through daily vitamin D supplementation. Unfortunately, not any vitamin D supplement will do—many deliver subefficacious doses (leading wellness experts recommend at 5,000 IU per day to maintain sufficiency) and inferior forms (i.e., D2 rather than the superior D3). 

To see the vitamin D supplements that mindbodygreen trusts to reach and maintain optimal D levels (i.e., a blood serum measurement of 50 ng/ml or higher), check out our comprehensive guide to choosing the right supplement for you.

The takeaway.

A recent Melanoma Research study found a positive link between adequate vitamin D levels and a reduced chance of skin cancer. While further research is needed to understand the exact correlation, there’s no denying the role vitamin D sufficiency has in maintaining overall health. 

In addition to potentially lowering our chances of developing melanoma, vitamin D helps regulate mood, strengthen the immune system, and build healthy bones. While it can be tricky to get enough of this vitamin, it’s well worth the effort.


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