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Vitamin D is essential to human health for its role as a catalyst for calcium absorption, yet many people are deficient, especially those that live at higher latitudes, far away from the earth's equator. In these areas, the tilt of the earth in the winter months forces the sun's rays to travel a longer path through the earth's atmosphere, filtering the UVB light necessary for reactions within the skin to create Vitamin D. Vitamin D protects against the development of many chronic diseases, including: cancer (breast, colorectal, prostate), cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, osteomalacia, osteoporosis, type 1 diabetes mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, and depression.
A more recent option for making Vitamin D is to use "UVB Narrowband" lamps, such as the Philips TL100W/01 6-foot long 100 watt lamp or the smaller PL01 lamps, made popular for its superior effectiveness in the treatment of psoriasis, vitiligo and other skin disorders. This lamp has a very large amount of energy concentrated at 310-311nm, and a minor peak at about 306nm. The diagram shows only partially its Vitamin D making potential, because the peak of the UVB-NB curve is so high, its contribution cannot fully be represented in this picture format. These lamps produce Vitamin D, AND they take advantage of the "sweet spot" between the action spectrum curves of Vitamin D and Erythema. This means that more Vitamin D can be produced before skin burning occurs, accurate dosing is less important, and the treatment is theoretically safer and easier to use, especially in the home environment.
Several medical studies have shown the effectiveness of UVB-NB in producing Vitamin D. As with UVB Broadband, UVB Narrowband lamps typically provide little tanning effect because dosing is limited by erythema, long before the UVA content can cause tanning. In other words, the UVB-NB spectral profile is too heavily weighted in UVB to allow significant tanning effects (78% of total UV output is UVB – beneficial for the treatment of vitamin D).
Typical treatment times range from a few seconds to a maximum of a couple of minutes, (see exposure guidelines below). After a few weeks of diligent UVB treatments, a substantial increase in the patient's vitamin D blood level would be expected. With restoration of this vitally important nutient, it is sensible to expect that there would be health benefits for suffering patients, possibly profound.
The important technical/medical point in this is that only UVB is needed to make vitamin D in human skin, and Philips Narrowband produces mainly UVB. This means that only the most beneficial ultraviolet-B wavelengths of light are delivered, with a minimal amount of unnecessary and possibly hazardous UVA.
UVB risks such as skin cancer and premature aging of the skin are directly related to local cumulative UVB exposure at a skin site over a person’s lifetime. UVB can be obtained from both artificial light sources and natural sunlight. Artificial light sources can include this UVB phototherapy device and, to a lesser extent, cosmetic tanning machines (mainly UVA and very small amount of UVB - and even more dangerous for cancers and skin wrinkling). The UVB content of natural sunlight depends on many factors including the time of year (with June 21st being peak UVB for the northern hemisphere), time of day (with early afternoon being the daily maximum), geographic latitude (greater UVB towards the earth’s equator), altitude (greater UVB at higher elevations), and other environmental factors such as cloud cover. Natural sunlight typically results in greater cumulative UVB exposure on the face/head, lower arms, chest and shoulders/upper back.
Skin burning is caused by excessive UVB, and occurs when the minimum erythema dose (1 MED) has been exceeded. Skin cancer has been linked to skin burning (erythema), especially when the burns occur at a young age.
The only effective method to determine your Vitamin-D level is by Vitamin-D blood testing.
Considering the above, a reasonable strategy for safe and effective Vitamin-D phototherapy is to: