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Many Black Men in Cold Climates Lack Vitamin D

FRIDAY, Sept. 23 (HealthDay News) -- People's bodies build up vitamin D through exposure to sunlight, But a new study suggests black men who live in areas of the United States with low sunlight are more likely to have vitamin D deficiency than whites who live in the same places.

The researchers say the findings show that current vitamin D recommendations need to change. "This study shows that across-the-board vitamin D recommendations just won't work for everybody," said study researcher Dr. Adam B. Murphy, clinical instructor in the department of urology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in an American Association for Cancer Research news release.

"With so many diseases linked to low levels of vitamin D, we should have more stratified recommendations to consider groups within the population instead of making monolithic suggestions," he said.

The researchers studied vitamin D levels in 492 men aged 40 to 79 who live in Chicago, an area of the country that gets a low level of ultraviolet radiation. More than 90 percent of black men were deficient compared to 69.7 percent of white men.

Murphy said the skin of black men reacts differently than that of white men to the sun, explaining why their bodies may produce less vitamin D.

Deficiencies of the vitamin put people at higher risk of diseases like prostate cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

"Because we have a lot of special populations in the United States -- people who have darker skin, people who cover their skin for religious reasons and people who live in poor sunlight environments -- there shouldn't be uniform vitamin D recommendations for the entire population," Murphy said.

The study was scheduled to be released this week at the American Association for Cancer Research Conference on The Science of Cancer Health Disparities, in Washington D.C.

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

For more on vitamin D, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, Sept. 20, 2011

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