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24-05-2012 | Oncology | Article

Age and smoking contribute to low vitamin D status


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MedWire News: Older age and current smoking increase a person's risk for vitamin D deficiency over lack of sun exposure alone, say researchers.

Recent research has demonstrated that vitamin D deficiency may increase the risk for Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, several cardiovascular diseases, and various forms of cancer, among other conditions.

This creates a dilemma for physicians, as to what they should advise their patients to do regarding sun exposure, as the incidence of skin cancers such as melanoma are on the increase and the main source of vitamin D for humans is sunlight.

Eugenia Cutillas-Marco (Hospital de la Vega Lorenzo Guirao, Cieza, Spain) and colleagues tested the vitamin D status during the summer of 177 healthy people from eastern Spain (39°N) to try and pinpoint factors that may influence vitamin D status on a day to day basis.

They found that the mean level of vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D) was 24.0 ng/mL, which is below the 30.0 ng/mL level recommended for the general population. Overall, 76% of the group had levels below 30.0 ng/mL and 4.5% were vitamin D deficient (below 10 ng/mL).

As might be expected, levels of vitamin D were higher in people with greater sun exposure. Younger people (below 35 years) were also more likely to have higher vitamin D levels (above 30 ng/mL) than older people (35 years or older).

Smoking increased the risk for low vitamin D levels (below 30 ng/mL) by 80% compared with nonsmoking.

"Our results showed that low vitamin D levels are common in our population - even in summer and in such a sunny area," say the authors.

"Dermatologists should take into account the high prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy among the patients attending our clinic, especially in smokers and the elderly. These risk groups should not be advised to strictly avoid sun exposure without also being informed about an alternative means of obtaining vitamin D," they write in Photodermatology, Photoimmunology, and Photomedicine.

"Oral supplements seem to be the most feasible means of ensuring adequate vitamin D status, although patients should do so under medical supervision," Cutillas-Marco et al conclude.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Helen Albert

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