Low vitamin D status is prevalent in wintertime in populations at northerly latitudes. Photosensitive patients are advised to practise sun avoidance, but their sunlight exposure levels, photoprotective measures and resulting vitamin D status are unknown.
To examine seasonal vitamin D status in photosensitive patients relative to healthy individuals and to assess quantitatively behavioural and demographic contributors.
This was a longitudinal prospective cohort study (53·5°N) examining year-round 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] levels, sun-exposure behaviour and oral vitamin D intake in photosensitive patients diagnosed at a photoinvestigation unit (n = 53), compared with concurrently assessed healthy adults (n = 109).
Photosensitive patients achieved seasonal 25(OH)D variation, but insufficient (< 20 ng mL(-1); 50 nmol L(-1)) and even deficient (< 10 ng mL(-1); 25 nmol L(-1)) levels occurred at the summer peak in 47% and 9% of patients, respectively, rising to 73% and 32% at the winter trough. Adjusting for demographic factors, the mean values were lower than for healthy volunteers by 18% [95% confidence interval (CI) 4-29] in summer (P = 0·02) and 25% (95% CI 7-39) in winter (P = 0·01). Behavioural factors explained 25(OH)D differences between cohorts. Patients demonstrated lower weekend ultraviolet B doses (P < 0·001), smaller skin surface area exposure (P = 0·004) and greater sunscreen use (P < 0·001), while average oral vitamin D intake was low in both groups (photosensitive: 2·94 μg per day). Supplementation and summer surface area exposure predicted summer peak and winter trough 25(OH)D levels. A 1 μg per day increment in supplementary vitamin D raised summer and winter 25(OH)D by 5% (95% CI 3-7) and 9% (95% CI 5-12), respectively (both P < 0·001).
Photosensitive patients are, through their photoprotective measures, at high risk of year-round low vitamin D status. Guidance on oral measures should target this patient group and their physicians.