Elucidating the links between UV radiation and vitamin D synthesis : using an in vitro model

Olds, William James (2010) Elucidating the links between UV radiation and vitamin D synthesis : using an in vitro model. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Ultraviolet radiation (UV) is the carcinogen that causes the most common malignancy in humans – skin cancer. However, moderate UV exposure is essential for producing vitaminDin our skin. VitaminDincreases the absorption of calcium from the diet, and adequate calcium is necessary for the building and maintenance of bones. Thus, low levels of vitamin D can cause osteomalacia and rickets and contribute to osteoporosis. Emerging evidence also suggests vitamin D may protect against falls, internal cancers, psychiatric conditions, autoimmune diseases and cardiovascular diseases. Since the dominant source of vitamin D is sunlight exposure, there is a need to understand what is a “balanced” level of sun exposure to maintain an adequate level of vitamin D but minimise the risks of eye damage, skin damage and skin cancer resulting from excessive UV exposure. There are many steps in the pathway from incoming solar UV to the eventual vitamin D status of humans (measured as 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the blood), and our knowledge about many of these steps is currently incomplete. This project begins by investigating the levels of UV available for synthesising vitamin D, and how these levels vary across seasons, latitudes and times of the day. The thesis then covers experiments conducted with an in vitro model, which was developed to study several aspects of vitamin D synthesis. Results from the model suggest the relationship between UV dose and vitamin D is not linear. This is an important input into public health messages regarding ‘safe’ UV exposure: larger doses of UV, beyond a certain limit, may not continue to produce vitamin D; however, they will increase the risk of skin cancers and eye damage. The model also showed that, when given identical doses of UV, the amount of vitamin D produced was impacted by temperature. In humans, a temperature-dependent reaction must occur in the top layers of human skin, prior to vitamin D entering the bloodstream. The hypothesis will be raised that cooler temperatures (occurring in winter and at high latitudes) may reduce vitamin D production in humans. Finally, the model has also been used to study the wavelengths of UV thought to be responsible for producing vitamin D. It appears that vitamin D production is limited to a small range of UV wavelengths, which may be narrower than previously thought. Together, these results suggest that further research is needed into the ability of humans to synthesise vitamin D from sunlight. In particular, more information is needed about the dose-response relationship in humans and to investigate the proposed impact of temperature. Having an accurate action spectrum will also be essential for measuring the available levels of vitamin D-effective UV. As this research continues, it will contribute to the scientific evidence-base needed for devising a public health message that will balance the risks of excessive UV exposure with maintaining adequate vitamin D.

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ID Code: 32073
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Kimlin, Michael, Moore, Michael, & Lucas, Robyn
Keywords: ultraviolet radiation, solar UV exposure, vitamin D, public health, sun, skin cancer, dose-response, skin temperature, action spectrum
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 30 Apr 2010 03:06
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2017 14:43

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