The C.A.M. Report
Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Fair, Balanced, and to the Point
  • About this web log

    This blog ran from 2006 to 2016 and was intended as an objective and dispassionate source of information on the latest CAM research. Since my background is in pharmacy and allopathic medicine, I view all CAM as advancing through the development pipeline to eventually become integrated into mainstream medical practice. Some will succeed while others fail. But all are treated fairly here.

  • About the author

    John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.

  • Common sense considerations

    The material on this weblog is for informational purposes. It is not medical advice or counsel. Be smart, consult your health professional before using CAM.

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    The Gilchrest view of vitamin D and sun exposure

    Dr. Barbara Gilchrest is professor and head of the Department of Dermatology at Boston University School of Medicine.

    Here’s a summary of her take on vitamin D deficiency and the risks and benefits of exposure to the sun.

    The pseudo-controversy

    • The media report a “medical controversy” that pits the unwanted effects of acute sunburn, photoaging, and skin cancer against the benefits of vitamin D photosynthesis.
    • It’s virtually impossible to find a definition of the recently coined term “vitamin D deficiency” in the medical literature.
    • And, the media ignore the fact that people get ample vitamin D levels from a combination of diet, supplements, and incidental protected sun exposure.

    The reality

    • The great majority of people with insufficient 25(OH)D (vitamin D) levels have no detectable disease or health problem, and probably never will.
    • There’s no benefit from a high 25(OH)D blood levels, and no harm from a lower level.

    Does increasing a person’s “normal” blood 25(OH)D level have health benefits?

    • The results of available studies are conflicting.
    • Today, we just don’t know.

    The bottom line?
    According to Dr. Gilchrest, common sense and medical research support the fact that fair-skinned people benefit from regular, lifelong, safe sun practices.

    Some claim that sunscreens block all UV (and hence, all vitamin D photosynthesis). But sunscreens allow continuous transmission of a fraction of UV photons equal to 1/SPF; and sunscreen users customarily apply half or less of the FDA-stipulated amount of product required to generate the stated level of protection.

    In addition, people who wear high-sun protection factor (SPF) sunscreen probably synthesize vitamin D maximally in exposed areas during incidental sun exposure.

    Most important, regardless of one’s complexion or the extent of UV exposure, daily vitamin D supplementation taken by mouth can compensate for the lack of vitamin D production in the skin.

    Use injections if you’re one of the rare people who can’t take vitamin D by mouth. Routine measurement of the blood 25(OH)D levels isn’t warranted. The test is expensive and the “normal” or “optimal” range is debatable.

    8/1/08 17:49 JR

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