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Patient Information

Sun protection and vitamin D after a melanoma diagnosis

https://kingstonhospital.nhs.uk/information/sun-protection-and-vitamin-d-after-a-melanoma-diagnosis

This offers guidance on how to protect your skin after a diagnosis of melanoma (skin cancer). It also offers advice on how to make sure you get enough vitamin D.

Why is sun protection important for people with melanoma?

People who have had melanoma are often advised to reduce their exposure to the sun. This is because:

  • Sunburn can affect the body’s natural defences against melanoma. This is especially true when the area of skin in question is likely to be exposed to strong sunlight.
  • Sunburn can occur on the beach, swimming, walking in the park, gardening or being outside to watch a summer sport.
  • A person with one type of melanoma can develop another type of melanoma.  In the UK 1 in 10 melanoma patients have more than 1 melanoma.

Why is vitamin D important?

Vitamin D is necessary to help you stay healthy and have strong bones.

When you are outdoors, your body uses direct sunlight on your skin to create vitamin D. 

If I avoid going out in the sun, how can I get the right amount of vitamin D? 

People diagnosed with melanoma are likely to cover up their body to protect it from sunburn.  Covering up like this can prevent their body being exposed to direct sunlight (which it needs to create vitamin D).

If you avoid going out in the sun after your diagnosis, ask your hospital medical team to measure the vitamin D levels in your blood.

What if my level of vitamin D is low?

If your vitamin D levels are low, your hospital doctor or melanoma nurse will tell you how to increase your levels of vitamin D. 

They may advise you to take vitamin D3 capsules. These can be bought at most chemists and health food stores.

The correct daily dose is 400 IU (10µg). 

If you do not want to take capsules, you can change your diet to increase your vitamin D intake. This is not easy to do because only a few foods contain vitamin D.  

Foods which contain vitamin D include:

  • fatty fish such as wild salmon, sardines, herring or mackerel
  • mushrooms
  • egg yolks
  • liver
  • cod liver oil
  • fish oil.

Foods which have vitamin D added by the manufacturer include:

  • some breakfast cereals
  • some breads
  • some yogurts.

Look at the food labels carefully to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D.  It is easier to increase your vitamin D by taking small vitamin D3 capsules.

What if my level of vitamin D is high?

If you have recently been on a sunny holiday, this may have caused a high level of vitamin D. In this situation, your hospital medical team will need to check your blood again 6 months after your holiday.  This will make sure that your vitamin D level has fallen to normal levels since your sunny holiday.

If you have not been on a sunny holiday and are taking vitamin D3 capsules, stop taking them if your vitamin D levels are high.   Ask your hospital medical team to advise you on when you need to start taking them again and how much to take.

If you have not been on a sunny holiday and are not taking vitamin D3 capsules, you may have a high level of vitamin D because you are getting it from other sources.  These might be multivitamins, cod liver oil, fish oil, supplemented cereals, yogurts or fatty fish etc. In this situation, your skin cancer nurse or consultant will advise you on your results and ongoing management.

What if my vitamin D level is normal?

If your blood test shows that you have normal levels of vitamin D, you do not need to take capsules or pills. 

If the blood test was done soon after a sunny holiday, your blood should be checked again after 6 months to make sure your vitamin D levels haven’t fallen.

Advice for families

Melanoma is more likely to occur in people with skin which burns easily in the sun. It is also more likely to occur in people who have a lot of skin moles. These conditions tend to be inherited.

If a member of your family sunburns easily or has a lot of skin moles, reduce the amount of time they spend in the sun.

More information

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GenoMel information on melanoma
www.genomel.org

NHS information on Vitamin D
www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/

Image by Freepik

Sun protection and vitamin D after a melanoma diagnosis - Kingston Hospital Download PDF


Contacts

Kingston Hospital Skin CNS Department 020 8934 6356
Kingston Hospital Cancer Psychology Support Service, Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm 020 8934 2114
khft.cancerpsychologyservice@nhs.net
Kingston Hospital Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Service, Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm 020 8973 5001
khft.macinfoswru@nhs.net

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