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Pharmacists' Answers to "Frequently Asked Questions" - Suncreens-Vitamin D

These comments are made for the purpose of discussion and should NOT be used as recommendations for or against therapies or other treatments. An individual patient is always advised to consult their own physician.

Sun Protection
Question: What does "SPF" stand for? Is SPF 8 enough to wear in a location such as Mexico?

Answer: Sunlight protection factor. The strength depends on your underlying skin color, the time in the sun and the intensity of the sun. If you want to prevent a burn, I'd use a stronger SPF like 10 or 14 unless you are dark or partially suntanned. The sun in Mexico is intense. It gets worse as you approach the equator.

Sunsreens/Vitamin D
Question: I wear sunscreen (SPF 30) daily over all exposed skin surfaces because of a history of malignant melanoma. I am also at somewhat high risk for osteoporosis because I am caucasian, 31, have not had children, and have a strong family history for osteoporosis. Does the constant suncreen use keep me from getting enough vitamin D and thus increase my risk of osteoporosis?

Answer: Vitamin D is necessary for the formation and maintenance of proper bone structure. A lack of Vitamin D leads to osteomalacia - called Rickets in developing children. Osteomalacis is defined as a defective mineralization of the bone organic matrix, Osteoporosis is a decrease of bone mass characterized by a decrease in the number and strength of trabeculae( the small cross struts of bone). A deficiency of Vitamin D will not lead to osteoporosis. However, the final result is similar - weak bones that fracture easily. Most of the Vitamin D is due to sun exposure; lack of exposure or blockage by sun screens can cause a deficiency in Vitamin D. This can be easily corrected by taking a multivitamin with Vitamin D or by drinking milk products which have Vitamin D added.

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