Am I still getting the vitamin D I need by sitting outside?

4 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

I keep hearing that vitamin D is really good for my overall health, and I love the idea of spending a day in the sunshine. (It always helps my mood!) But I'm also worried about skin cancer -- all the women in my family already have it, and I don't want to be next. I wear sunscreen every day, even in winter. I also usually wear a hat. So with all this coverage, can I still get Vitamin D by sitting outside?

Expert Answers

Rebecca S. Boxer, MD is a geriatric heart failure specialist and an assistant professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University. She is a nationally recognized expert on aging and heart disease.

You pose a very good question about gaining vitamin D by sunlight exposure vs. the risk of skin cancer. Sitting outside in sunlight will boost vitamin D levels but your skin must be exposed and free of sunscreen. Reducing the risk of skin cancer, especially in light of your family history, should take priority and wearing sunscreen and a hat are good ways to reduce your skin cancer risk. In this case I recommend vitamin D supplements to maintain adequate levels. You can easily get your vitamin D level checked by a blood test (officially known as a 25OHD level) to know if you are vitamin D deficient. Based on the results you may need to have a high dose vitamin d supplement to increase your levels or a lower dose supplement to maintain an adequate existing vitamin D level.

Community Answers

Ricardo answered...

Skin cancer has been a problem for me for years. To get my "dose" of vitamin D I take a 50,000 unit capsule once a week. Vit. D level checked on a regular basis. Works great.

Millie anderson. answered...

Research is showing that the Vitamin D that is related to prevention of memory loss, is D-2, the type you get from oily fish, not from the sun. So if that's your objective, time in the sun is unnecessary! I'm not a scientist, so for more info, you will have to google it.

A fellow caregiver answered...

Is it possible to get too much vitamin D?