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People with fairer skin could be in a biological catch-22, if researchers from the University of Leeds are to be believed. Though sufficient exposure to sun is required by them so that their bodies trigger the production of Vitamin D essential for their bone health, they risk sunburns and cancer of the skin with longer exposures without adequate protection of melanin, the pigment that gives darker colour to the skin but also protects from the harmful effects of direct sun exposure. (1)
The research which was funded by Cancer Research U.K., eventually suggested that such persons with lower levels of melanin cover should take Vitamin D supplements besides applying adequate quantities of sunscreen when they set out into the sunny outdoors. However, there is a catch. How much Vitamin D is adequate for them?
The study, which was published in the journal Cancer Causes and Control, suggested that though melanoma and other bone conditions patients of fairer skin tones may need vitamin D supplements, apart from the limited sun exposure, still there were other factors that determined the actual level of Vitamin D in a person’s body.
It might so happen that though two people with the same skin tones may take the same vitamin supplement dosage and exposure to sunlight, may have different levels of Vitamin D due to the difference in the way their bodies process Vitamin D. (2)
There is rallying around a standard definition at present on how much is optimal Vitamin D levels. The study defined the optimal amount of vitamin D required by the body as at least 60nmol/L. However at present there is no universally agreed standard definition of an optimal level of vitamin D.
The research examined the Vitamin D levels of 1200 very light-complexioned people and found that more than 700 of them had sub-optimal levels. Researchers chose 60nmol/L as the optimal vitamin D level in part because there is evidence that levels lower than this may be linked to greater risk of heart disease and poorer survival from breast cancer. It was agreed between the Cancer Research UK and other health charities that values below 25 nmol/L had adverse effect on bone health.