Vitamin D may help reduce the risk of melanoma
We all know that vitamin intake is vital for optimal health and when it comes to wellness, the potential benefits of vitamin D are frequently the subject of investigations. One of the most exciting of the newest studies explored whether supplementation could lower melanoma risk. The Finnish study found that individuals who regularly take supplements are significantly less likely to have malignant melanoma or skin cancers of any type. The study, involving nearly 500 individuals, concluded that regular vitamin D users had a significant 55% reduction in melanoma diagnosis. Occasional use was associated with a nonsignificant 46% reduction. The reduction was similar for all skin cancer types. Despite the promising results, author Ilkka T. Harvima, warned there are limitations to the study. Despite controlling for several possible confounding factors, he stated that it is still possible that other yet unidentified or untested factors may still have confounded results, suggesting that more research is needed to better understand the relationship between vitamin D and melanoma.*
In another recent discovery, a separate study revealed that response to vitamin D supplementation may be blunted in patients who are overweight or obese.** A post hoc analysis examined the large-scale Vitamin D and Omega-3 trial, finding no benefits overall associated with vitamin D supplementation (2000 IU/d) for 5 years in terms of cancer incidence or cardiovascular disease outcomes. However, secondary analyses according to body weight showed that patients with a healthy weight (BMI < 25) did have significant benefits compared with the placebo in terms of cancer incidence (24% lower), cancer mortality (42% lower), and autoimmune disease (22% lower). It has been suggested that a leading theory as to why higher BMI would be linked to reduced benefits of vitamin D supplementation is because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, the increased amount of body fat associated with higher BMI results in greater removal of the vitamin from circulation within the body.
How can you get adequate vitamin D?
Current government advice states that everyone should consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement during the autumn and winter and people at elevated risk of not getting enough vitamin D, all children aged 1 to 4, and all babies (unless they are having more than 500ml of infant formula a day) should take a daily supplement throughout the year.
Good sources of vitamin D
From about late March/early April to the end of September, most people should be able to make all the vitamin D they need from sunlight. The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors. But between October and early March we do not get enough vitamin D from sunlight. Read more about vitamin D and sunlight.
Vitamin D is also found in a small number of foods including:
- oily fish – such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel
- red meat
- egg yolks
- fortified foods – such as some fat spreads and breakfast cereals
How much vitamin D do I need?
Children from the age of 1 year and adults need 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day. This includes pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Another source of vitamin D is dietary supplements. Because it can be difficult for people to get enough vitamin D from food alone, the NHS recommends that everyone (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter.
*Anastassios, G. Pittas. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Individual Participant Data from Three Randomised Clinical Trials (2023)
**Malachi, J. McKenna. Preventing Type 2 Diabetes with Vitamin D: Therapy versus Supplementation (2023)