Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Ways to incorporate vitamin D into your everyday life

Experts’ opinions vary regarding the best way to incorporate vitamin D into everyday life. Vitamin D can either be produced by ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation or dietary sources. Some experts believe that taking vitamin D supplements is the easiest way, while others favor getting vitamin D from nutrient-rich foods and sun exposure.

The sunshine vitamin

Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because it is naturally produced in skin exposed to UVB rays. The amount of vitamin D produced varies depending on many factors including: the time of day, where you live and skin pigment. Some believe that a small amount of time in the sun each day can allow enough vitamin D to be produced. Experts often recommend 10-15 minutes of sun exposure before or after the peak hours of 10 am to 3 pm.

While the sun is a good source of vitamin D for many, too much sun is often not advised for people with cancer. In fact, many cancer patients should avoid the sun, particularly during treatment, as certain chemotherapies, radiation therapies and targeted therapies can make patients more susceptible to sunburns. Also, patients with skin cancer are advised to stay out of the sun altogether.

Although it is important to be aware of the sun’s benefits, be sure to talk with your doctor about the appropriate amount of sun exposure for you.

Foods that contain vitamin D

The following foods contain vitamin D, and can be incorporated into your everyday diet to increase your intake:

  • Milk
  • Egg yolks
  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, trout, mackerel and tuna
  • Dried shitake mushrooms
  • Canned tuna fish
  • Fortified orange juice
  • Some fortified cereals

If sunlight and diet don’t provide adequate levels of vitamin D, or if sun exposure is not recommended for you, supplements can be taken. If taking a vitamin D supplement, the Vitamin D Council recommends you choose one that provides vitamin D3, as opposed to vitamin D2. Another source for receiving vitamin D3 is the sun. When incorporating vitamin D into everyday life, it’s important to balance sun exposure, diet and supplementation. Consult with your oncology team to find the right combination for your needs.

Cancer patients are advised to consult with an oncology dietitian about vitamin D-rich foods, as well as a naturopathic oncology provider about proper use of supplements.

Learn more about the role nutrition plays during cancer treatment.