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J Photochem Photobiol B. 2008 Nov 13;93(2):88-93. doi: 10.1016/j.jphotobiol.2008.07.004. Epub 2008 Jul 24.

In vitro model of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) synthesis by UV radiation: dose-response relationships.

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Australian Sun and Health Research Laboratory, Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, Victoria Park Road, Kelvin Grove, Queensland, 4059 Brisbane, Australia.


Vitamin D deficiency is a major health concern worldwide. Very little is understood regarding its production in the human body by exposure to UV radiation. In particular, we have no means of predicting how much vitamin D (cholecalciferol) will be produced in the skin after exposure to sunlight. Using a refined in vitro model, we found that there is a nonlinear relationship between UV dose and cholecalciferol synthesis. Two minimal erythemal doses (MED) of UV radiation produced 1.84 microg/mL of cholecalciferol whereas 4 MED produced 2.81 microg/mL. We also found that the production of cholecalciferol is restricted by the initial concentration of its precursor (7-dehydrocholesterol, 7-DHC). For example, using an initial concentration of 7-DHC of 102 microg/mL, the resultant cholecalciferol production was 1.05 microg/mL after receiving 4 MED exposure. Under the same exposure conditions, an initial concentration of 305 microg/mL yielded 2.81 g/mL of cholecalciferol. The data presented in this paper has important implications for humans, including: (1) increasing UV exposure does not result in a proportionate increase in the amount of cholecalciferol that is produced; and (2) the initial concentration of 7-DHC in the skin may impact the amount of cholecalciferol that can be synthesized. When translating these results to population groups, we will discuss how the sun exposure message needs to be carefully formulated to account for such considerations.

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