A new research funded by Cancer Research UK has discovered that fair skinned people may not be able to stay long enough in the sun, while not getting sunburned as well.
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and people get most of what they need from exposure to sunlight during the summer months.
It suggests that the increased risk of skin cancer from excessive sun exposure outweighs any vitamin D benefit for people who are fair-skinned.
Fair-skinned people who burn easily in the sun may need to take vitamin D supplements, according to new research.
Professor Julia Newton-Bishop, lead author of the study, said: “Fair-skinned individuals who burn easily are not able to make enough vitamin D from sunlight and so may need to take vitamin D supplements.”
The study, from the University of Leeds and published in the journal Cancer Causes and Control, suggests the optimal amount of vitamin D required by the body is at least 60nmol/L.
Studies have shown that amount of vitamin D below this level are linked to an increased risk of heart disease and poorer survival from breast cancer while levels below 25nmol/L are linked to poor bone health.
In the new study, people with fair skin did not, on average, reach 60nmol/L unless they were taking supplements, but they did reach above 25nmol/L.
Researchers also found that sunlight and supplements are not the only factors that can determine the level of vitamin D in the human body.
Genetic differences in how the body processes vitamin D have a strong effect on vitamin D levels.
Experts analyzed vitamin D levels for 1,203 people and found that around 732 had a sub-optimal level.
Those with fair skin had significantly lower levels than others in the group.