Recent research suggests that melanoma patients with high levels of vitamin D – the “sunshine vitamin” – may survive for longer.
The study published by Professor Julia Newton-Bishop at the University of Leeds, measured the levels of vitamin D in the blood of 872 melanoma patients at the time they were diagnosed, and cross-matched these with clinical information about how each patient fared.
Melanoma patients with the lowest levels of vitamin D were a third (30 per cent) more likely to relapse after treatment than those with the highest levels. And those with the highest levels of vitamin D tended to have thinner (i.e. generally less dangerous) tumours when they were diagnosed.
However, despite their findings, it is possible that vitamin D itself did not cause these improvements, and that some other factor is responsible. Further research is needed to study this link, and until then, the best advice is to maintain normal vitamin D levels through a healthy diet that includes food that contains vitamin D, and through normal daylight exposure*. The risks of excessive sun exposure are well established and sunbathing and sunbeds cannot be recommended.
* During summer months in NZ, people should be able to achieve adequate vitamin D levels through incidental outdoor UV exposure. For example, someone who burns easily may only need 5 minutes before 11am and after 4pm to achieve adequate vitamin D levels.