Emerging scientific evidence strongly supports the beneficial role of vitamin D in reducing the risk of incidence and death from many chronic and infectious diseases. This study estimates increases in melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer mortality rates and decreases in chronic and infectious disease mortality rates in the US from the standpoint of approximately doubling population doses of solar UVB to increase mean serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels from 16 ng/mL for black Americans and 25 ng/mL for white Americans to 45 ng/mL. The primary benefits are expected to come from reductions in cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Although a few thousand excess deaths per year might occur from melanoma and skin cancer, the avoided premature death rate could be near 400,000/ year, with most of the avoided deaths coming late in life. While oral sources of vitamin D could be used instead of UVB or when UVB irradiance is not available, public health policies do not yet recommend the 3,000-4,000 IU/day required to raise serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels to the levels required for optimal health, which would be required before vitamin D fortification levels in food can be raised. Until then, moderate solar UVB irradiance remains an import source, and the health benefits greatly outweigh the risks.
Keywords: cancer; cardiovascular diseases; melanoma; respiratory infections; skin cancer; ultraviolet-B; vitamin D.