Affiliation: Physiology & Bosch Institute, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.
Today, there is a controversial debate in many scientific and public communities on how much sunlight is appropriate to balance between the positive and negative effects of solar UV-exposure. UV exposure undoubtedly causes DNA damage of skin cells and is a major environmental risk factor for all types of skin cancers. In geographic terms, living in parts of the world with increased erythemal UV or high average annual bright sun results in increased risks of skin cancers, with the greatest increased risk for squamous cell carcinoma, followed by basal cell carcinoma and then melanoma. On the other hand, sunlight exerts positive effects on human health, that are mediated in part via UV-B-mediated cutaneous photosynthesis of vitamin D. It has been estimated that at present, approximately 1 billion people worldwide are vitamin D-deficient or –insufficient. This epidemic causes serious health problems that are still widely under-recognized. Vitamin D deficiency leads to well documented problems for bone and muscle function. There are also associations between vitamin D-deficiency and increased incidence of and/or unfavourable outcome for a broad variety of independent diseases, including various types of malignancies (e.g. colon-, skin-, and breast cancer), autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases, and cardiovascular diseases. In this review, the present literature is analyzed to summarize our present knowledge about the important relationship of sunlight, vitamin D and skin cancer.