Vitamin D and Skin Cancer

Sun exposure signals the deeper layers of the skin to make melanin. Melanin is then sent up to the surface layers of the skin to protect us, like a little black umbrella. Melanin makes us darker and blocks production of vitamin D in the skin. As the summer wears on, if we slowly get more and more exposure, we become darker in color and make less vitamin D per hour. People who live in countries closer to the equator in Africa or Central America who still live outside stay tanned all year long. The skin is designed to have a connection between the blood level of D25OH and the amount made in the skin. A person with normal melanin, who is still living outdoors or using a tanning bed daily is not able to produce a vitamin D blood level over 80 ng/ml by sun exposure alone, so that appears to be the normal biological upper level.

This does not mean that liberal sun exposure is good for everyone! There are people who have very little or no melanin in their skin. They have specific genetic mutations that became common in parts of the world such as Scotland and the Nordic countries where there are very few months of UVB light in summer and very few clear days for sun exposure. Losing the melanin was a survival advantage, we all need Vitamin D to survive so in low sun environments people with red hair and very white skin survived better than their dark skinned cousins. The people who are not able to make melanin cannot tan and are therefore at risk for severe sunburn, skin damage and skin cancer. People with this skin type, once transplanted to a very sunny environment must use sunscreen or clothing to protect their skin. But people of color who possess their own sun screen only need to protect their skin when they are first exposed in summer. They can still burn if they’re not careful, but each person, with experience, begins to know how much sun they can tolerate without producing a sunburn. It is not sun exposure that makes skin cancer, it is the damage of sunburn and the lack of vitamin D in the skin to repair the DNA damage that leads to skin cancer. Vitamin D enters the nucleus of skin cells and repairs the DNA damage. Squamous cell carcinoma grown in a petri dish becomes a normal cell when exposed to vitamin D!

People who are very dark skinned came from very high sun environments at the equator. Their bodies were made to be able to live outside all day long and be healthy and make enough D to live long and prosper. They will need more sun exposure to make the same amount of D as a lighter skinned person. Dark skinned people did not start to have skin cancers until the last thirty years. This means that the cause and the treatment are the same and like everything else in nature, there’s a balance. Don’t burn your skin is still good advice. Use your judgement and your own experience with your body!

One other warning: Skin cancer is related to damage over time. If I’ve had low vitamin D for the last thirty years of my life it means that the DNA damage done to my skin over that span of time was NOT repaired because there was no vitamin D on the skin to repair it. That means that the state of my skin at the time I start increasing my sun exposure plays a role. Start doing intelligent sun exposure with your kids but if you already have obvious sun induced skin changes you should use sun screen and do the D supplementation orally. I suspect that once a skin cell has turned fully cancerous, vitamin D supplementation does not turn it around the way it does in the petri dish. Since we have easy, cheap supplementation it’s better to be safe if you’re over 40, even if you have dark skin.

Sun Exposure is the Natural Way to Make Vitamin D

We are one of the few animals on earth without feathers, scales or fur. It turns out to be a bit risky not to have a covering on the skin, but there may be some advantages to being hairless. Though we don’t have fur to block the sun we are able to make a portable, temporary sunscreen that allows us to protect our skin from the sun when we need to. All animals on the planet, as far back as insects, fish and reptiles use their skin to make vitamin D, and so do we. We make vitamin D from the UVB rays of the sun as they hit our skin, but only outside and with direct sun exposure. UVB is the only wavelength of light that changes 25 dehydroxycholesterol in our skin to a “pre” vitamin D, the chemical that then becomes vitamin D25 OH.  The clothing that we wear and the sunscreen that we put on both block the UVB rays. They also block the production of vitamin D on the skin! Because the D in most food supplements is vitamin D2, (D2 is what rats, nocturnal animals, use), the food supplementation that the US government has provided in milk does not replace the vitamin D3 made on the skin. (Most doctors do not know the difference, and the current Family Practice recommendations are still vitamin D2 50,000 IU once a week.)

How to use the melanin in your skin to your and your child’s advantage:

Human skin coloring is based on a chemical called melanin. Melanin is a chemical that is designed to absorb energy. In the skin it is used to absorb potentially damaging UVB light. High energy light rays of UVA and UVB frequency from the sun or from a tanning bed can damage the DNA in our skin cells. That damage, if not repaired, can lead to skin cancer. We hairless beings incorporated a wonderful, home-made sunscreen into the surface of our skin. We can make it on demand and adjust it in relation to our sun exposure. We also use the vitamin D on our skin to repair that same DNA damage. So… way, way before doctors or sunscreen ever existed, our bodies had this all worked out!

In summary: be smart, be careful, listen to your body. If you can make enough vitamin D in the summer to make you sleep all the way through the winter then you don’t need to supplement. The bad effects of vitamin D deficiency don’t happen in one season, they accumulate over years of sleeping badly and not repairing our body for years on end. In normal populations that lived away from the equator there was a normal yearly  change in the vitamin D blood level. It went up in the Fall and down again in the Spring. Probably, if the lowest Winter D level was 40 ng/ml the intestinal bacteria changed  enough for us to gain a little weight, then when the D went up again in summer the normal bacteria grew back and we would lose the extra pounds.



Vitamin D dosing is very personal:

Each person has their own personal dose of vitamin D that must be learned by testing the D blood level. An example: A mother is dosing three of her kids with 2,000 IU/day for one month in the winter, Nathan goes from 20 ng/ml to 50 ng/ml, Samantha goes from 18ng/ml to 25ng/ml and Alex goes from 25ng/ml to 95 ng/ml, each are taking exactly the same dose for same period of time.

The maximal amount of vitamin D made on the skin of a light skinned person, fully sun exposed, middle of the summer, is said to be 20,000 IU, so that is the largest dose that I will start even in someone whose level is very low (undetectable –10ng/ml). That does not mean that everyone gets into the right range with that dose, however. Some of my patients required much bigger doses, up to 50,000 IU (D3 not D2) per day for several years. They had usually been very sick for a very long time and we worked up to that dose over many months as their D level failed to increase on lower doses. Though it is documented that there are people who have specific problems with absorption, I have tried various types of replacement in those who needed larger doses: on the skin, sublingual etc, and I did not find that those methods were any more reliable than oral pills.

I disagree with the proposed idea that fat people have lower D blood levels because they’re fat. It has been suggested that they dilute their vitamin D by storing it in their fat, instead of their blood. Obese people may indeed have lower D levels, and require higher doses, but I think that is because they have been sick longer. Their low D level caused their obesity, not the reverse. 5-6 years of dosing the same obese person also revealed that the dose requirements fell over time, into a more routine range, even while the weight remained the same.

There are several other variables that affect vitamin D blood dosing. Based on my experience with over 5000 patients, about one in 50 people needs much smaller doses. These people operate in a dose range of 1/10th of what everyone else needs. (This probably suggests that they also make less vitamin D per sun exposure, though that has yet to be proven.) It is also impossible to predict who will need these smaller doses; they can have any initial D blood level, can be any color and any age. If you are one of these few you will feel terrible within a week of starting a D dose that is ten times too big, and this is one of the reasons I suggest that you start slowly.

I did not attempt to measure any of the genetic mutations that affect skin production of vitamin D, vitamin D binding protein, GI absorption, or the vitamin D receptor. These are all variables that do indeed exist and need to be sorted out once the “healthy” D level is actually agreed upon. Until then I don’t think it makes sense to blame all differences in D dosing and blood levels on “problems with absorption”. What I learned over time was that if the level wasn’t going up usually the dose being given was just too low. Please see the chapter on “Vitamin D Controversies” for more details.

What if Your Poor Sleep is Not Really Your Fault?

Sleep, hunger and thirst are all feelings we recognize. But have you ever tried to explain to someone what it feels like to be thirsty? We just assume that every other human has these “feelings” too but we don’t really think about how they occur. None of them are really under your conscious control. They’re run by chemicals from our brain. We learn what to do in response to them in the first few years of life. When we “feel hungry” we learn to eat until we “feel full”, when we “feel thirsty” we learn to drink, until we “don’t feel thirsty”. Attaching these “feelings” to what to do happened so early that we don’t remember the learning process. But it’s important to know that the “feelings“are not consciously generated by you, they are generated by your body, they are “involuntary”. If they’re run by chemicals in the brain then they can get goofed up, just like any other body process. There are people who can’t judge normal thirst and drink too much water. There are people who don’t get the right messages and still feel hungry after eating a large meal. Sleep is involuntary too! People who have normal sleep just lie down and go to sleep. They wake up about 8 hours later feeling great. If this is not what happens to you it’s not because you’re “doing it wrong”, it’s because your brain is malfunctioning.

Most of the experts blame the bad sleeper or the sleep environment. “You sleep too much”, “the room is too light”, “you think too much”, “the room is too warm”, “your husband snores”, “you’re on your phone/computer too much”. My experience with over 5000 neurology patients taught me that sleep is not something you can control. You are not doing something wrong, your sleep switches are malfunctioning. Even though you can’t control the sleep switches, (they really control you) you can give them what they need to repair themselves and start working normally again.

I believe that sleep disorders have become epidemic because of a deficiency of the hormone made on our skin from sunlight, vitamin D. Many parts of our body need this hormone. What might surprise you the most is that the bacteria that live in our intestine need our vitamin D!  And that the bacteria that live inside us are an important “organ” of our body, like the liver or the kidney. They aren’t really “us” exactly, but they do accompany us throughout our life and they affect our appetite, our weight, our immune system, and even…. our sleep.

Go to the blog Healthy Bacteria Healthy Sleep to learn more

What is Healthy Sleep?

You know what sleep is, right? Sure you do, because all of us sleep.  Actually, most of us sleep. There are people who don’t sleep, and those people are aging faster. They’re dying faster than the rest of us. What’s really sad is that they feel like they’re dying. They’ve asked for help, but we don’t really know why they don’t sleep, so we can’t help them. There are also people who sleep but stop breathing. Those people have “sleep apnea”. Most of us have heard of them, and the “masks” they wear at night. We’re either related to them, sleep next to them, or are wearing one of those ourselves. The masks do help but they don’t really cure the  problem; we’re not supposed to stop breathing while we’re asleep. That’s a big problem!

There are also lots of people with sleep difficulties that have been completely ignored.  “I sleep fine but I’m still tired in the morning”, “I sleep fine” but “my memory is lousy”,  “ I sleep fine but I have a headache every day”, “I’m in a bad mood every day”. They’ve been ignored because we have no idea what to do. We focus on the headache, the mood,  the memory,  and make pills for them, but the problem is really the sleep. A healthy, happy person has healthy sleep every night. That healthy sleep means no medical problems and no pain. Take a pill for a medical problem? You’ve  had to start relying on outside help. That means your repair last night was not normal. It’s not that using outside help is wrong, but it is a message; “You’re not sleeping normally.”

We’re all miraculous “self-repairing beings”. Every night we’re supposed to get into deep sleep and repair everything. All the tools our cells use to do their individual jobs for us are made at night and stored. And, they  have to make enough stuff to last 18 hours! We need enough insulin to match the sugar we eat, enough serotonin to keep us content and curious, enough adrenaline to keep us alert and safe on the drive home. If we run out of insulin by 10:00 am we need a doctor to give us insulin, because we’re “diabetic”, if we run out of serotonin we’re given an antidepressant. They’re all just replacements for the chemicals we used to be able to make ourselves.

While we’re sleeping all the moving parts of our body get repaired too! Tendon fibers that broke when you lifted that suitcase re-make themselves. Lubricants in your joints get topped-up. Muscles that you ripped mend themselves. In order to make those repairs all of our moving parts have to get paralyzed. If you get paralyzed just right, every night, the repairs get done and you wake feeling great, physically and mentally! But what if we are unable to enter into and stay in deep sleep? What if the paralysis gets goofed up and we get “too paralyzed”, what happens then?

Sleep apnea is not due to being fat or having a fat neck. It is the result of being “too paralyzed” during deep sleep. Sleep apnea was first noticed in fat men.  We really had no idea why it was happening, but it seemed logical that it might be their “fat necks” getting in the way. Now we know that obesity and sleep apnea may come together, but fat is really not the cause of the apnea.  Both problems started to show up a lot more frequently in the early 1980’s as air conditioning and sunscreen changed us from “outside humans” into “inside humans”. Over the last forty years sleep disorders  are everywhere! They’re just as common in children as they are in adults, and they’re all over the world.

We have always lived outside, in the sun. We rely on the sun as much as plants do. Turns out we need the sun to have healthy sleep.  I will teach you how to use the hormone, vitamin D, that comes from the sun, to go back to repairing normally. RightSleep® is what I’ve called it. It’s a process that includes both advice and vitamins to get you back to sleeping normally. You can learn about RightSleep® on this site and you can schedule an informational session with me if you still have questions. Read further at: What if Your Poor Sleep is Not Really Your Fault?


RightSleep® Courses for You or your Clinician

Go here for personal help with your sleep issues and here to purchase a RightSleep Workbook to guide you.

Do you wish you had a Clinician near you who was qualified to help you with the Right Sleep® method?

The first training course for 2018,  Take Back the Night , will be held in Phoenix, Arizona May 12th and 13th .  If there’s a Clinician who has helped you or who has expressed an interest in learning how to be a true sleep expert please  share this information with them. Any professional with clients who suffer from sleep challenges is welcome. Right Sleep® requires no prescription medications, and it has been successful in helping over 5000 patients return to sleeping normally.

Can Anyone Attend a RightSleep® Course?

Yes, you may attend a RightSleep® course without being a clinician.  But, there is a strict requirement that you be well prepared. If you do not have a science background you will have lots of pre-requisite reading. Anything you don’t understand you will need to brush up on, on your own, before attending the course. Go here to register. (Registration fees are the same for clinicians and non-clinicians.) ( Office staff that are accompanying their clinician to the course are admitted for a reduced charge.)

The course is designed to teach you how to help others improve their sleep, how to ask the right questions and what suggestions to make about sleep habits. This is not a course about vitamins or healthy living. This is a very specific process directed at sleep improvement.  You will be among the first to learn why bad sleep is an epidemic and how to fix it! 

Give someone the best present ever, the ability to help others!