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Beacon Senior News

Lower skin cancer and COVID risk with vitamin D

May 24, 2021 12:15PM ● By Wendell Fowler
Overturned bottle of spilled Vitamin D pills

D-Day for skin cancer

Without the sun’s energy, there’d be no life on Earth. However, like so many things, too much sun can be our undoing.

As a young ’60s counter-culturalist, I used to take the bus to Nantasket Beach, Massachusetts—one of the busiest amusement park beaches in Boston. This naive, red-headed, freckled lad would lie on the beach to tan, but ended up as red as a boiled lobster due to my lack of pigment. Occasionally, I’d slather on baby oil to intensify the sun cooking. Those days of youthful innocence eventually took their pound of flesh.

Fast forward to today. After several invasive surgeries and countless expensive, excruciatingly painful applications of liquid nitrogen, I never go out in the sunlight without a hat and long sleeves. Rather than pouring gas on the proverbial fire, now I only allow myself 15 minutes of sunshine a day before applying sunscreen. Generally, though, I avoid the sun and take a daily vitamin D-3 supplement.


Lower cancer risk

In order to prevent skin cancer, everyone (especially those who sunburn easily) should cover sensitive areas, wear sunblock, limit total exposure time, and avoid sunlight between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

According to www.healthline.com, 1 in 5 U.S. adults will develop skin cancer by age 70. More people receive skin cancer diagnoses each year than any other cancer, making it the most common form of cancer in the United States.

However, there’s good news! The World Cancer Research Fund International states that people with high levels of vitamin D in their blood have a lower risk of developing skin cancer than persons with low levels of the vitamin. So, while you want to be careful to avoid too much sun exposure, keeping vitamin D levels high is just as important.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that getting vitamin D from sunshine is the best source. However, some people have difficulty synthesizing vitamin D or live in climates with little sunshine.

As for diet, most nutritionists concur it’s generally not possible to get enough vitamin D through food alone.

The best food sources of vitamin D are found in salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines and some mushrooms. Cod liver oil is also a good source. However, because many fish have high levels of contaminants like mercury, the number of fish you would have to eat to get enough vitamin D could be hazardous to your health. It’s better to take a third-party-inspected supplement. My go-to is sublingual liquid D-3.

However, if you’re planning to use a supplement rather than get sunshine, avoid excessive doses of D-3. Generally, 6,000 IU or less per day is considered safe.


Vitamin D & COVID

Another benefit of vitamin D is that it boosts your immune system. In fact, some medical authorities believe D deficiency opens the Pandora’s box to illnesses such as respiratory disease, osteoporosis, depression, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and schizophrenia, to name a few.

Its importance has even extended to COVID-19. According to the Mayo Clinic, “One study of 489 people found that those who had a vitamin D deficiency were more likely to test positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 than people who had normal levels of vitamin D.”

Regarding COVID, the NIH agreed.

“Maintaining adequate D levels is vital to prevent getting infected or to ward off the virus without mortality in case it occurs. We conclude that correlation exists between D levels and COVID-19 susceptibility, and D could prove to be an essential element in our fight against COVID-19.”

Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, can prevent skin damage as well as address widespread nutritional deficiency. Be sun smart by limiting exposure, especially if there’s a family history of melanoma. Also, perform due diligence in your choice of sunscreen, as both the NIH and the FDA expressed concern over dubious chemical additives. Seek mineral-based sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide that the FDA deems safe.

So, before putting on your itsy-bitsy string bikini, mindfully take your daily D-3 supplement, grab some sunscreen and a hat, and maybe leave the tanning oil at home.