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Q.

I've heard that I need to spend time in the sun or use tanning beds to get the Vitamin D that I need. Is this true?

 

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A.

Vitamin D has received a lot of attention in recent years, and many physicians are talking with their patients about Vitamin D deficiency. New guidelines for how much Vitamin D people need to stay healthy were released in November 2010 from the Institute of Medicine. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble hormone that regulates the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorous, helping to form and maintain strong bones. Vitamin D is active throughout the body, and ongoing research is investigating its role in health and disease.

Vitamin D is naturally present in very few foods, added to others (fortified foods), and available as dietary supplements. It is also produced in the body when ultraviolet (UV) rays contact the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis, which is why some people have concluded that they need more UV exposure to get enough Vitamin D. However, exposure to UV rays is a major risk factor for melanoma and other skin cancers. UV rays (from the sun or tanning beds) penetrate the skin, damaging the skin and causing genetic mutations that can lead to cancer.

MRA encourages individuals to beware of the dangers of UV exposure and advises that people do not need to put themselves at risk of melanoma and other skin cancers to get vitamin D. If you and your doctor decide you are not getting enough Vitamin D, oral supplements offer a safe alternative source of vitamin D without carcinogenic risk.

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