The C.A.M. Report
Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Fair, Balanced, and to the Point
  • About this web log

    This blog is intended as an objective and dispassionate source of information on the latest CAM research. Since my background is in pharmacy and allopathic medicine, I view all CAM as advancing through the development pipeline to eventually become integrated into mainstream medical practice. Some will succeed while others fail. But all are treated fairly here.

  • About the author

    John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.

  • Common sense considerations

    The material on this weblog is for informational purposes. It is not medical advice or counsel. Be smart, consult your health professional before using CAM.

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    The Gilchrest view of vitamin D and sun exposure

    Dr. Barbara Gilchrest is professor and head of the Department of Dermatology at Boston University School of Medicine.

    Here’s a summary of her take on vitamin D deficiency and the risks and benefits of exposure to the sun.

    The pseudo-controversy

    • The media report a “medical controversy” that pits the unwanted effects of acute sunburn, photoaging, and skin cancer against the benefits of vitamin D photosynthesis.
    • It’s virtually impossible to find a definition of the recently coined term “vitamin D deficiency” in the medical literature.
    • And, the media ignore the fact that people get ample vitamin D levels from a combination of diet, supplements, and incidental protected sun exposure.

    The reality

    • The great majority of people with insufficient 25(OH)D (vitamin D) levels have no detectable disease or health problem, and probably never will.
    • There’s no benefit from a high 25(OH)D blood levels, and no harm from a lower level.

    Does increasing a person’s “normal” blood 25(OH)D level have health benefits?

    • The results of available studies are conflicting.
    • Today, we just don’t know.

    The bottom line?
    According to Dr. Gilchrest, common sense and medical research support the fact that fair-skinned people benefit from regular, lifelong, safe sun practices.

    Some claim that sunscreens block all UV (and hence, all vitamin D photosynthesis). But sunscreens allow continuous transmission of a fraction of UV photons equal to 1/SPF; and sunscreen users customarily apply half or less of the FDA-stipulated amount of product required to generate the stated level of protection.

    In addition, people who wear high-sun protection factor (SPF) sunscreen probably synthesize vitamin D maximally in exposed areas during incidental sun exposure.

    Most important, regardless of one’s complexion or the extent of UV exposure, daily vitamin D supplementation taken by mouth can compensate for the lack of vitamin D production in the skin.

    Use injections if you’re one of the rare people who can’t take vitamin D by mouth. Routine measurement of the blood 25(OH)D levels isn’t warranted. The test is expensive and the “normal” or “optimal” range is debatable.

    8/1/08 17:49 JR

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