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Prog Biophys Mol Biol. 2006 Sep;92(1):140-9. Epub 2006 Feb 28.

Considering the potential benefits as well as adverse effects of sun exposure: can all the potential benefits be provided by oral vitamin D supplementation?

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National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, The Australian National University, Canberra 0200, Australia.


Exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is associated with both adverse and beneficial health effects. While many of the adverse effects of excessive exposure are well known, the adverse effects of insufficient UVR exposure are less clear-cut, but may include a heightened risk of several cancers and autoimmune disorders as well as of bone diseases such as rickets, osteomalacia and osteoporosis. Although some of the postulated beneficial effects of UVR exposure may occur through the maintenance of adequate levels of vitamin D, it is not clear that this can account for all of these effects. We briefly review the epidemiological literature with respect to vitamin D, UVR exposure and autoimmune diseases. We further outline alternative pathways, whereby UVR could alter the risk of development of some cancers and autoimmune disorders, independent of effects on vitamin D synthesis. Recognition of the beneficial effects of UVR exposure has led to a reconsideration of sun avoidance policies. It is important to recognize that all of the beneficial effects of UVR exposure may not occur only through UVR-induced vitamin D synthesis. Thus maintaining current sun avoidance policies while supplementing food with vitamin D may not be sufficient to avoid the risks of insufficient exposure to UVR.

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