Mar 23, 2013

Vitamin D Deficiency and Melanoma - is there a link?

There are several resources online that suggest we have a worldwide epidemic of vitamin D deficiency which could be the cause of several health concerns. According to an article published in the International Journal of Health Sciences in 2010, "Vitamin D3 deficiency can result in obesity, diabetes, hypertension, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoporosis and neuro-degenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin D deficiency may even contribute to the development of cancers, especially breast, prostate, and colon cancers. Current research indicates vitamin D deficiency plays a role in causing seventeen varieties of different cancers as well as heart disease, stroke, autoimmune diseases, birth defects, and periodontal disease. Vitamin D3 is believed to play a role in controlling the immune system (possibly reducing one’s risk of cancers and autoimmune diseases), increasing neuromuscular function and improving mood, protecting the brain against toxic chemicals, and potentially reducing pain."
In 2011, the "Journal of Clinical Oncology" published the first comprehensive examination of vitamin D supplementation and melanoma. Stanford University School of Medicine researchers Jean Tang and colleagues reviewed data from the Women's Health initiative a study that tracked 36,000 women for an average of seven years. All of the women in the study were between the ages of 50 and 70. The data revealed that women who previously had non-melanoma skin cancers and took a low-dose vitamin D and calcium supplement developed 57 percent fewer melanomas than women with similar cancer histories who did not take vitamin D.

NIH - Melanoma and Vitamin D
"The possible results of high vitamin D levels on the immune system remain unclear however and a source of some concern, but the data support the view that serum levels in the range 70-100 nmol/L might be a reasonable target for melanoma patients as much as for other members of the population."

Washington Post Article from 2004! - very good read
Many experts who believe vitamin D deficiencies play an important role in a range of diseases say people can get enough safely by taking vitamin D supplements, sidestepping the contentious sunlight debate.

"There's a lot of emotion in this fight, which is unfortunate," said Hector F. DeLuca, who studies vitamin D at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. "This is a very important issue. We really need to address two important questions: Are we getting enough vitamin D? I believe we are not. The other one is: What's the best way to get it? That's a matter of debate."

The above links are from just a few of the sites I visited in my research. I don't know if there is a link between vitamin D deficiency and melanoma, but there is enough evidence suggesting a link, in my opinion, to warrant testing Madison's vitamin D levels. We had this done while she was home for spring break, and sure enough she came back with insufficient levels at 21.7 ng/ml.  I can't say that I'm surprised. A body's best source of vitamin D is when the skin is exposed to UV rays from the sun. Madison has always been good about wearing sunscreen, but since she was diagnosed with melanoma, she has been diligent about wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen which blocks UVA and UVB radiation. As a result, vitamin D synthesis cannot take place. Additionally, the National Institute of Health  points out that "obtaining sufficient vitamin D from natural food sources alone is difficult", because very few foods contain vitamin D naturally.

Now that we know Madison is deficient, how do we get that level up and what is the optimum number for vitamin D sufficiency?  I've read way too much on this subject, and my head is spinning, but from what I understand it is not easy to raise your vitamin D level. Additionally, optimal levels have not been established and would most likely vary by age and health status. We are not willing to expose her skin to the sun to increase her vitamin D. That is not going to happen, and I would never encourage anyone to do this. There isn't enough evidence to warrant putting your skin through that kind of damage on a daily basis and risk getting melanoma as a result. Please do not intentionally expose your skin to UV rays from the sun or any other source.  It's not worth it.

According to the lab, a normal level of vitamin D is between 30 and 100 ng/ml.  WHAT? That is a wide range in my opinion, but common sense tells me you'd want to fall somewhere in the middle of that, which would be 65 ng/ml.  A medical professional I spoke with even suggests 80 ng/ml to be a more optimum level, in his opinion. 

From what I understand the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of Vitamin D3 is a maintenance level and will not assist in raising your level if you are deficient.  Furthermore, there is research to suggest that the RDA for someone Madison's age, at 600 iu, is too low. Many would suggest you need at least 1000 iu daily to maintain a healthy level of vitamin D3. 

It is going to take a lot to bring Madison's level up to an acceptable number, so I am starting her on a supplement of 5000 iu Vitamin D3 twice a day and we will check her level again in 3 months time. 10,000 iu per day is a lot, but after researching and discussing this with healthcare professionals, I have determined this to be a safe dosage that will give us good results.  Once we raise her vitamin D3 to at least 65 (preferably 80), she will then be able to cut that dosage in 1/2 and hopefully maintain a sufficient level of vitamin D3 in her system.  We will monitor her level closely to find the optimum dosage for her to maintain sufficient vitamin D, as vitamin D toxicity has been associated with kidney stones and other health concerns, we don't want her level to get too high. I will keep you posted on the results...

related posts: SideWalk Arts Festival - Melanoma Awareness

With vitamin D being associated with so many health problems for so long, why don't dr's do the blood test in your annual exam? If, as a parent, I ensured my daughter was not deficient in vitamin D, would she have gotten melanoma? Obviously, I'll never know the answer to that, but it bothers me to learn of this problem and to think it might have been prevented with the use of a supplement. As individuals we can't know everything, and we rely on health care professionals to have the knowledge to keep us healthy, so why has no doctor EVER tested my blood, my daughter's, or my husband's blood for a vitamin D deficiency??  I am curious if you have had your vitamin D level checked and, if so, were you deficient? If deficient,  how did you bring your level up? Do you take a supplement, and if so, how much?

Vitamin D3 is fat soluble, so it needs fat to absorb. A supplement that uses organic flax seed oil was suggested to me by a professional in the supplement industry

Please understand I am NO expert on this subject. I am just a mom trying to understand my daughter's diagnosis. I have done my own research and spoken with medical professionals to make a determination that works for MY family and one with which we are comfortable. I urge everyone to have your vitamin D level tested and, if you are deficient, to discuss the results with your doctor as well as do your own research to make an informed decision about your health and how to proceed in raising your vitamin D for optimum health. 


  1. Thank you, Tony. I will definitely check it out. I have a lot to learn about supplements and appreciate any help in that area. Thanks again! ~Marion

  2. Marion...I did some research involving vit D supps to babies. (aap is advising 400iu's for newborns and up). A freind who is a family doc did her own little research study here in Florida, and found that just about EVERYONE is low or deficient. I am, Libby is...the whole family. So my question is...what is going on with our bodies that is depleting vitamin D??? Interestingly we are all low on B12 too....Hmmmmm. I have been on a supplement since Jan. Have you had yours tested? You can safely bet that you are low too...

    1. It is shocking, Linda. I never would have expected living in FL and being outdoors all the time that Madison would be so low, until I realized that the sunblock is blocking the UV rays. Also, the more tan we get from being exposed to the sun, the less our bodies are able to absorb the uv radiation. Melanin blocks the uv rays too. It's a catch 22 and supplementation is really the only good option, imo. I am going to have my dr order the test at my next visit and for Don too. For Madison, I didn't want to wait for her dr appt., so I had her test done at the hospital direct access testing draw station. Thanks for sharing!


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