Can Vitamin D Supplements Lower Your Risk of Skin Cancer?

Vitamin D Supplement Capsule Bottle Illustration

Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that develops when pigment-producing cells become malignant. It is a particularly dangerous form of skin cancer because it can spread to other parts of the body if not detected and treated early.

A study conducted by the University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University Hospital found that fewer cases of melanoma were observed among regular users of vitamin D supplements. Experienced dermatologists also estimate that those who regularly took vitamin D supplements had a significantly lower risk of skin cancer. The study, published in Melanoma Researchinvolving nearly 500 individuals with an increased risk of skin cancer and showed that those who regularly took vitamin D supplements had a lower incidence of melanoma compared to non-users.

Vitamin D is vital for the proper functioning of the human body and may be involved in various diseases. Extensive research has been done on the relationship between vitamin D and skin cancer, with a focus on calcidiol, a metabolite of vitamin D, and its correlation with skin cancer. Previous studies have focused on examining serum levels of calcidiol and its association with skin cancer.

Findings from these studies have been inconclusive and sometimes even contradictory, as serum calcidiol levels have been associated with both a slightly higher and a slightly lower risk of several skin cancers. This may be partly explained by the fact that serum calcidiol assays provide no information on the metabolism of vitamin D in human skin, which may express enzymes that generate or inactivate biologically active vitamin D metabolites.

The new study, conducted as part of the Northern Savonia skin cancer program, took a different approach: 498 adult patients with an estimated increased risk of skin cancer, such as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma, were recruited into the dermatology department. outpatient clinic of Kuopio University Hospital. Experienced dermatologists from the University of Eastern Finland carefully analyzed the background information and medical history of the patients and examined their skin.

The dermatologists also classified the patients into different skin cancer risk classes, namely low risk, moderate risk, and high risk. Based on their use of oral vitamin D supplements, the patients were divided into three groups: non-users, occasional users, and regular users. Serum calcidiol levels were analyzed in half of the patients and found to be consistent with their self-reported use of vitamin D.

A key finding of the study is that there were significantly fewer cases of melanoma in regular users of vitamin D than in non-users and that the skin cancer risk rating of regular users was significantly better than that of non-users. Logistic regression analysis showed that the risk of melanoma in regular users was significantly reduced, more than halved, compared to non-users.

The findings suggest that even occasional users of vitamin D may have a lower risk of melanoma than non-users. However, there was no statistically significant association between vitamin D use and the severity of photoaging, facial photoaging, actinic keratoses, number of nevus, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. Serum calcidiol levels were also not significantly associated with these skin changes. Because the study design was cross-sectional, the researchers were unable to demonstrate a causal relationship.

Other relatively recent studies have also provided evidence for the benefits of vitamin D in melanoma, such as the association of vitamin D with less aggressive melanoma.

“These previous studies support our new findings from the Northern Savo region here in Finland. However, the question of the optimal dose of oral vitamin D to have beneficial effects has yet to be answered. Until we know more, national intake recommendations should be followed,” notes Professor of Dermatology and Allergology Ilkka Harvima of the University of Eastern Finland.

Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University Hospital have previously reported (BMC Cancer 2021) that the mortality rate for melanoma in Northern Savo is relatively high in relation to its incidence.

“For that reason, too, it is worth paying attention to the adequate intake of vitamin D among the population in this region,” concludes Harvima.

Reference: “Regular use of vitamin D supplement is associated with fewer cases of melanoma compared to non-use: a cross-sectional study in 498 adult subjects at risk for skin cancer” By Emilia Kanasuo, Hanna Siiskonen, Salla Haimakainen, Jenni Komulainen and Ilkka T. Harvima, Nov. 14, 2022, Melanoma Research.
DOI: 10.1097/CMR.0000000000000870

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