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Women with lighter skin had on average 4 ng less vitamin D in their blood – 2009

Pigmentation and Vitamin D Metabolism in Caucasians: Low Vitamin D Serum Levels in Fair Skin Types in the UK

Received: January 6, 2009; Accepted: June 16, 2009; Published: August 3, 2009

Vitamin D may play a protective role in many diseases. Public health messages are advocating sun avoidance to reduce skin cancer risk but the potential deleterious effects of these recommendations for vitamin D metabolism have been poorly investigated.


We investigated the association between 25-hydroxy-vitamin D (25(OH)D), skin type and ultraviolet exposure in 1414 Caucasian females in the UK. Mean age of the cohort was 47 years (18–79) and mean 25(OH)D levels were 77 nmol/L (6–289). 25(OH)D levels were strongly associated with season of sampling with higher levels in the spring and summer months (p<0.0001). Light skin types (skin type 1 and 2) have lower levels of 25(OH)D (mean 71 nmol/L) compared to darker skin types (skin type 3 and 4) (mean 82 nmol/L) after adjusting for multiple confounders (p<0.0001). The trend for increasing risk of low vitamin D with fairer skin types was highly significant despite adjustment for all confounders (p?=?0.001).

Contrary to previous studies across different ethnic backgrounds, this study within Caucasian UK females shows that fair skin types have lower levels of 25(OH)D compared to darker skin types with potential detrimental health effects. Public health campaigns advocating sun avoidance in fair skinned individuals may need to be revised in view of their risk of vitamin D deficiency.

Daniel Glass1*, Marko Lens1, Ramasamyiyer Swaminathan2, Tim D. Spector1, Veronique Bataille1,3

1 Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology, Kings College London, St Thomas' Hospital Campus, London, United Kingdom, 2 Department of Chemical Pathology, Guys and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, London, United Kingdom, 3 Dermatology Department, West Herts NHS Trust, Hemel Hempstead General Hospital, Herts, United Kingdom

Background
Vitamin D may play a protective role in many diseases. Public health messages are advocating sun avoidance to reduce skin cancer risk but the potential deleterious effects of these recommendations for vitamin D metabolism have been poorly investigated.

Methodology/Principal Findings
We investigated the association between 25-hydroxy-vitamin D (25(OH)D), skin type and ultraviolet exposure in 1414 Caucasian females in the UK. Mean age of the cohort was 47 years (18–79) and mean 25(OH)D levels were 77 nmol/L (6–289). 25(OH)D levels were strongly associated with season of sampling with higher levels in the spring and summer months (p<0.0001). Light skin types (skin type 1 and 2) have lower levels of 25(OH)D (mean 71 nmol/L) compared to darker skin types (skin type 3 and 4) (mean 82 nmol/L) after adjusting for multiple confounders (p<0.0001). The trend for increasing risk of low vitamin D with fairer skin types was highly significant despite adjustment for all confounders (p = 0.001).

Conclusions/Significance
Contrary to previous studies across different ethnic backgrounds, this study within Caucasian UK females shows that fair skin types have lower levels of 25(OH)D compared to darker skin types with potential detrimental health effects. Public health campaigns advocating sun avoidance in fair skinned individuals may need to be revised in view of their risk of vitamin D deficiency.


Perhaps people with lighter skins feel that they burn too easily and thus stay out of the sun, or apply more sunscreen

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