Photoprotection and vitamin D: a review

Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. Apr-Jun 2014;30(2-3):137-45. doi: 10.1111/phpp.12096. Epub 2014 Jan 9.


The topic of vitamin D is at the forefront of discussions due to evidence suggesting its role in extra-skeletal health. It is already established that vitamin D plays a key role in skeletal health in young and elderly adults. This vitamin is obtained mainly through sunlight; various factors such as skin pigmentation and seasons affect cutaneous synthesis. Debates about the effects of sunscreen use on cutaneous synthesis of vitamin D have arisen in recent years. An updated review of the literature emphasizes that adequate levels of vitamin D are needed to prevent osteoporosis, falls and fractures in the elderly population. Emerging data also point to its role in cardiovascular disease, auto-immune conditions and cancers. Normal usage of sunscreen by adults has not shown to decrease cutaneous synthesis of vitamin D. Recommended Daily Allowance for vitamin D, released in 2010, was based on studies examining skeletal effects of this vitamin. Oral intake with vitamin d-enriched foods or vitamin D supplements is recommended over prolonged ultraviolet exposure to maintain proper serum levels. Patients should not be discouraged from normal usage of sunscreens due to their well-established photoprotective effects.

Keywords: extra-skeletal; photoprotection; skeletal; sunscreen; vitamin D.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Autoimmune Diseases / metabolism
  • Autoimmune Diseases / pathology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / prevention & control
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism
  • Bone and Bones / pathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / pathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Osteoporosis / metabolism
  • Osteoporosis / pathology
  • Osteoporosis / prevention & control
  • Skin / metabolism*
  • Skin / pathology
  • Sunscreening Agents* / adverse effects
  • Sunscreening Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*
  • Vitamin D* / metabolism
  • Vitamin D* / therapeutic use


  • Sunscreening Agents
  • Vitamin D