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When ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun hit our skin, we synthesize it into vitamin D, which promotes bone health. But will a high SPF sunblock or UV-resistant clothing that protects us from sunburns harm our ability to absorb the vitamin?

Probably not, according to Dr. Vernon Sondak, chair of Moffitt Cancer Center’s Department of Cutaneous Oncology.

Dr. Vernon Sondak, chair, Department of Cutaneous Oncology.

“If you are worried about vitamin D, take a multivitamin,” Sondak said. “Even surfers who are out in the sun all day, every day sometimes don’t have sufficient vitamin D levels.”

That may be because tanned or sunburned skin can’t synthesize the UV rays as well as healthy skin.

“Our skin is less efficient at producing vitamin D if it is tanned or burnt,” explained Sondak. “A few minutes of sun exposure in the early morning or late afternoon will usually result in the maximum amount of endogenous vitamin D you can produce without leading to tanning or burning.”

Multivitamins are a great alternative way to receive the amounts of the vitamin your body needs without risking damage to your skin or subjecting yourself to a cancer risk like melanoma.

Recent headlines have argued that when sunscreen is applied in a thick layer, it blocks too much sunlight and prevents vitamin D synthesis in the skin. That may be true, but in the real world most of us barely use enough sunblock, not too much of it.

So, you may not have to worry about vitamin D deficiency if you're not putting enough sunscreen on in the first place. In one Australian study , adequate vitamin D levels were maintained over the course of a summer whether individuals used a broad spectrum sunscreen or a placebo cream. Researchers attributed the results in part to "the lack of total skin cover at all times."

In addition to vitamin D supplements, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends getting vitamin D from a healthy diet that includes foods naturally rich in the vitamin, such as salmon, tuna, sardines, cod liver oil, and egg yolks, or foods and beverages fortified with vitamin D, such as cereals, yogurt, milk and orange juice.

Moffitt's Mole Patrol® skin cancer screening program travels to venues around Florida to offer FREE skin cancer screenings and cancer education to the public. For a list of our upcoming screening events, visit