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Vigilance Against Skin Cancer May Lead to Lack of Vitamin D
Date:10/18/2010

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Oct. 18 (HealthDay News) -- People with a genetic predisposition to basal cell carcinoma -- the most common form of skin cancer -- may trade one health risk for another, a new study suggests.

Because people with basal cell nevus syndrome (BCNS) tend to develop multiple basal cell skin cancers in early adulthood and so take more precautions against sun exposure, they may also run a higher risk of being deficient in vitamin D, report researchers in the October issue of Archives of Dermatology.

"We found that patients with skin cancer who practice very good photoprotection [sun protection] have lower vitamin D levels," said Dr. Jean Tang, lead author of the study. "This makes sense because they're avoiding sunlight and sun is required to synthesize vitamin D."

But having healthy levels of the nutrient may be necessary to protect against cancer, broken bones, heart disease and even some autoimmune diseases.

The study authors looked back at the medical records of 41 patients with BCNS who had previously been involved in a trial to see if the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug Celebrex (celecoxib) might prevent against basal cell carcinomas. According to the authors, Celebrex is not known to affect vitamin D levels in the body.

These individuals were matched against 360 men and women who did not have the cancer syndrome but who were of similar ages, similar weight, similar UV (ultraviolet) exposure and who lived in similar geographic areas

Eighty percent of the BCNS patients said they used sunscreen every day, avoided the sun during its hottest hours in the middle of the day and wore long-sleeved clothing.

And in this sample, 56 percent of participants with BCNS had too-low levels of vitamin D -- three times as many as in the control group.

"Most likely," said Tang, "the fact that skin cancer patients avoid sunlight is probably th
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