Skin cancer gene linked to vitamin D

People predisposed to skin cancer may also be at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency, research suggests.

Basal cell carcinoma (Photograph: SPL)

Patients with basal cell nevus syndrome (BCNS) who protect themselves against the sun are three times more likely to be vitamin D deficient than the general population.

Study authors said the findings would help inform supplement regimes for patients with the condition. It may also be worthwhile screening people at risk of skin cancer for vitamin D deficiency if they follow photoprotection programmes, they added.

BCNS is rare, with incidence of about 1 in 100,000. These patients must protect themselves against sun exposure as the condition increases risk of basal cell carcinoma (BCC).

But frequent sun protection may cause abnormally low levels of vitamin D, research suggests. This can increase the risk of autoimmune disease, fractures, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

In the study, 41 patients with BCNS who were enrolled in a photoprotection programme were tested for vitamin D levels and deficiency.

The results were matched against 360 patients with normal vitamin D levels.

Among BCNS patients with below average vitamin D levels, 56 per cent were deficient.

This compared with 18 per cent of people in the general population.

The researchers said the results may apply to patients without BCNS who have sporadic BCCs and for whom photoprotection is currently recommended.

'Screening for vitamin D deficiency may become an important part of care for this population,' the researchers concluded.

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