I attended a presentation of Dr. Michael Holick’s at an annual meeting I attended of the American Association for Cancer Research.  Dr. Holick has studied Vitamin D for 30 years. He received the Linus Pauling Award for Health Research in 2009 related to his work (after he was fired from his professorship in dermatology for promoting healthy sun exposure).

His work brought many things to light.  Vitamin D is actually not a vitamin but a hormone, a hormone used by every cell in the body.  All immune cells have Vitamin D receptors.  Vitamin D deficiencies are now being associated with increased cancer risks, with autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus and even with depression and psychological disorders.

Many of us living in the United States above Atlanta Georgia are vitamin D deficient, in part because we get so little sun exposure in the winter months.  We also have developed a phobia of sun exposure in the warmer months, so use sun block whenever we are outside in the summer, which prevents our bodies from developing our own natural Vitamin D.

It’s interesting that in some cancers are more prominent in the black population, whose skin pigmentation makes it more difficult for them to produce vitamin D when exposed to sun.  It’s also interesting that now obesity is seen as a risk for developing cancer, and vitamin D is sequestered in fat cells and not available for use in the body of those who are overweight.  Cancer is also a disease associated with aging, and as we get older, our bodies are less able to produce vitamin D from sun exposure.  The incidence of many cancers is greater for those who live in the northern United States.

Our bodies naturally produce 20,000 units of vitamin D in just 15 minutes when just our arms and legs are exposed to the sun in the  in the warmer months.   And there is no toxic effect from naturally produced Vitamin D.  It is felt that the current recommendations for vitamin D intake are too low.   We can’t obtain enough vitamin D from the foods we eat, so in the absence of sun exposure and without supplementing our vitamin intake, we will likely be deficient.  We can obtain enough vitamin D naturally with arms and legs exposed to sun in the summer months for 15 minutes 3 times a week.

As I have a history of cancer and autoimmune disease and live in the northern United States, I personally started taking large doses of vitamin D supplements, and several months after taking supplements asked my doctor to do lab work to see what my vitamin D level was….with supplementation, my vitamin D level was just in the middle of the normal range.  I encouraged my sister-in-law, diagnosed with breast cancer, to have her vitamin D level checked, her level was far below normal; her doctor has now put her on a prescription Vitamin D tablets.