Ask a Doctor: How to Balance Melanoma Risk With Need for Vitamin D

BY Dr. Ann Corson and Dr. Kenneth Mark TIMEMay 26, 2014 PRINT

Dr. Ann Corson: I treat patients with chronic conditions such as chronic fatigue, Lyme disease, mold-induced illness. I check them all for both 25-hydroxy vitamin D (most doctors check this only) and 1-25 dihydroxy vitamin D. The latter is the active form of the vitamin.

I do this because chronic inflammation present in these illnesses often results in elevated 1-25 vitamin D and low 25 vitamin D. Giving more vitamin D to such patients seems to actually worsen their illness.

In the population of chronically ill patients, often the 1-25 vitamin D is elevated while the 25 vitamin D is low. In this case, I advise against any vitamin D supplementation until the 1-25 vitamin D is within the normal range. This is accomplished by treating the underlying causes of systemic inflammation.

If both measures of vitamin D are low, then I supplement with vitamin D3 plus vitamin K2, (not vitamin K1), which puts calcium back into bone. Giving vitamin D alone without sufficient K2 can be detrimental. I feel that adequate levels of vitamin D are essential for proper immune system function.

The best way to make biologically active vitamin D is sun exposure. I counsel patients to get 15 minutes of sunlight on skin (at least face and arms) before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. at least five days a week, if possible. This way, they are less likely to get sunburned or develop sun-related dermatological complications.

Dr. Ann Corson is a board-certified family medicine and integrative holistic medicine doctor who specializes in treating chronically ill patients.


Dr. Kenneth Mark: We know vitamin D plays a role in our immune function, and recent studies link low levels to increased risk of type 1 diabetes, muscle pain, and certain types of cancers. Therefore, the smartest thing is to eat a balanced diet, supplement with oral vitamin D as necessary, and get some sun exposure.

You don’t need to have significant, non-protected, prolonged sun exposure, and getting a sun burn is unhealthy. Simply walking outside with only your face exposed, even in the middle of the winter, for a short period of time with SPF is enough to help the body to generate vitamin D.

The typical person gets plenty of sun exposure during the more sun-intense times of the year, on larger body parts and surface areas. They also under-apply the correct amount of SPF. In addition, vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. As such, it is stored in the body for prolonged periods of time.

Dr. Kenneth Mark, FAAD, FACMS, is a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon.

Dr. Corson obtained her MD degree at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, PA in 1982 and is board certified in Family Medicine and Integrative Holistic Medicine. Her solo practice in Philadelphia, PA is devoted full time to the treatment of patients suffering from all forms of chronic disease. In 2008, Dr. Corson joined Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH) to help raise awareness of China’s live forced organ harvesting of innocent prisoners of conscience, primarily Falun Gong practitioners. Since 2016, she has been editor-in-chief of DAFOH’s newsletter.
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