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Vitamin D supplementation boosts light therapy used to treat skin cancer and other skin diseases

Vitamin D supplementation boosts light therapy used to treat skin cancer and other skin diseasesPhotodynamic therapy is a kind of light therapy that is used to treat skin cancer, psoriasis, and other skin diseases. According to a review article published in Nutrients, vitamin D supplementation can improve the outcome of the treatment. In fact, vitamin D appears to have several positive effects on skin health. Taken in large doses, the vitamin can even repair skin damage caused by sunburns.

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a type of light therapy that is used to treat skin cancer and early stages of skin cancer (actinic keratosis) caused by sun damage. PDT is used against other skin diseases such as psoriasis and acne. The treatment involves topical application of a medical cream that makes the skin highly sensitive to light. After that, the skin is exposed to red light that destroys the diseased skin cells. In some cases, scar tissue is formed and there may be prolonged redness of the treated skin areas.
Although photodynamic therapy is considered to be rather effective in itself, various studies have looked at the effect of combining PDT with different nutritional supplements. One of the them is vitamin D3 (or cholecalciferol). Another is calcitriol (1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol), which is the active steroid form of vitamin D. Studies have documented that vitamin D supplements are able to improve PDT when used to treat actinic keratosis, skin cancer, and psoriasis. Also, experimental studies have tested the use of photodynamic therapy and vitamin D on breast cancer cells and in animal models.
The purpose of the new study was to see if vitamin D supplementation could improve the effect of photodynamic therapy. The researchers browsed through various databases searching for relevant studies published in the period between 1979-2022. They found that vitamin D improved the effect of PDT by up to 30 percent. In one case, the treatment was improved by as much as 10 times by adding the vitamin, compared with using PDT alone. The scientists suggest that vitamin D in combination with photodynamic therapy holds promising therapeutic potential and should be tested in further clinical studies and used for clinical purposes. All the studies included in the review article were carried out on adult patients. Therefore, the scientists call for studies of children and young patients to confirm an overall positive effect.

  • Generally speaking, there are two types of skin cancer: Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Normal skin cancer is often treatable

How can vitamin D improve the outcome of PDT?

Vitamin D is viewed as a steroid hormone and is primarily know for its role in regulating the body’s absorption and utilization of calcium. Experimental studies have shown that vitamin D increases the production of protoporphyrin IX in the mitochondria (the energy-producing cellular powerhouses). This seems to support photodynamic therapy in its destruction of skin cancer cells. Also, vitamin D is known to regulate inflammatory processes that can cause damage to the skin and other types of cells. Moreover, the active form of vitamin D (calcitriol) promotes the healing of mutations in the keratinocytes (the outermost of skin layers) by increasing levels of p53, which is considered a cellular tumor suppressor gene. Vitamin D is generally of importance for a number of different on-off switches in genes, some of which can stimulate the programmed cell death (apoptosis) that follows in the wake of photodynamic therapy.

Vitamin D can heal damage caused by sunburns

Vitamin D is of vital importance to our general health, which is why exposure to sunshine during the summer period is important so we can synthesize vitamin D in our skin. In the case of a sunburn, it even appears that high-dosed vitamin D supplementation can help repair the skin damage, thereby speeding up the healing process and lowering the risk of skin cancer.


Anna Mazur et al. Vitamin D and Vitamin D3 Supplementation during Photodynamic Therapy: A Review. Nutrients 2022

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