Ethan A. Huff
It is already a known fact that individuals with darker skin pigmentation, including people of Middle Eastern and African descents, have a much more difficult time absorbing vitamin D-producing ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from the sun than do individuals with lighter skin pigmentation. And a new study now confirms that a disproportionately high amount of primarily African-Americans die from cancer every year as a result of vitamin D deficiency.
Published in the journalDermato-Endocrinology, the study sheds a little more light on the vital role vitamin D plays in disease prevention. After taking into account socioeconomic status, stage of diagnosis, treatment options, and various other factors that might affect survival rates, researchers determined that the mortality rate for cancer among African-Americans is as much as 30 percent higher than it is for others, specifically because of vitamin D deficiency.
Individuals with fair skin tones can produce an adequate amount of vitamin D from natural sunlight exposure in about 15 minutes a day during the summer. But blacks and other darker-skinned individuals require as much as six-times longer in the sun to produce the same amount, which means many darker-skinned people, especially in North America, are more prone to vitamin D deficiency than light-skinned people.
As a result, individuals of African and Middle-Eastern descent may be more prone to chronic illness, including 13 specific types of cancer identified in the study — bladder, breast, colon, endometrial, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, rectal, testicular, vaginal, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and melanoma. This is why it is important for darker-skinned people to either spend more time in the sun, whenever possible, or supplement with natural vitamin D3 every day.
“Raising vitamin D concentrations to 40 ng (nanograms) per ml (milliliter) by taking 1000-4000 IU (international units) per day of vitamin D3 supplements is the easiest thing African-Americans can do to reduce the heavy burden of cancer they experience,” says William B. Grant, co-author of the new study and Director of the Sunlight, Nutrition and Health Research Center (http://www.sunarc.org).
“In addition to reducing the risk of cancer, vitamin D would also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, respiratory infections and many other chronic and infectious diseases.”
Vitamin D deficiency widespread
It is not just blacks that need more vitamin D, however. A 2011 study found that nearly half of the overall population is vitamin D deficient, regardless of race. The most severely affected groups, though, are blacks, more than 82 percent of which are said to be deficient, and Hispanics, more than 69 percent of which are vitamin D deficient.
Opinions vary as to how much vitamin D an individual needs every day, but the growing consensus is that optimal blood serum levels of vitamin D are between 50-80 nanograms per milliliter ng/mL, or 125-200 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L). Depending on what your current serum levels are, you may need to supplement daily with anywhere from 4,000-10,000 IU or more of vitamin D3.
If you think you might be vitamin D deficient, you may want to get tested. The Vitamin D Council has created a helpful page that explains how to get tested, what to look for, and how to begin restoring optimal vitamin D levels in your body:http://www.vitamindcouncil.org
Sources for this article include: