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If Vitamin D is a potential sunburn remedy, what does it mean for skin cancer?

Researchers find massive amounts of Vitamin D could be the answer to the summertime nemesis of every pale person: The blistering, crimson sunburn.

People who took huge doses of the vitamin an hour after a sunburn saw long-term benefits — significant reductions in redness, swelling and inflammation. That's according to researchers at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. The school's study was the first-ever trial to exhibit the anti-inflammatory perks of Vitamin D.

It's welcome news to those who've earned the "strawberry" nickname a time or two. But perhaps more importantly, the discovery raises new questions for researchers, chiefly: Could rapidly healing skin mean better protection from ultraviolet radiation and, perhaps, skin cancer?

"We are currently investigating that topic and hopefully may learn new ways to prevent skin cancer other than just sunscreens," said study lead author Kurt Lu, a Case Western assistant professor of dermatology.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During the study, published in the May edition of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Lu and his team gave 20 people a sunburn using a lamp, then gave them a placebo pill or varying doses of Vitamin D. The Vitamin D pills packed enormous amounts ranging from 125,000% to 500,000% of the recommended daily allowance for adults. The people who took the highest doses saw the best results: Less skin irritation within 48 hours and less skin redness.

The researchers suggested the reason for the quick healing is the fact Vitamin D increases an anti-inflammatory enzyme in the skin. The enzyme triggers other anti-inflammatory proteins and enhances tissue repair.

"We hypothesize that Vitamin D helps promote protective barriers in the skin by rapidly reducing inflammation," Lu said. "What we did not expect was that at a certain dose, Vitamin D not only was capable of suppressing inflammation, it was also activating skin repair genes."

The benefits of Vitamin D have been questioned over the years. A decade ago, studies linked Vitamin D deficiency to osteoporosis and heart attacks.

Lu stressed he isn't suggesting people start taking Vitamin D supplements to fight a sunburn. More studies with more people need to be done.

"But, the results are promising and worthy of further study," he said.

Reference: USA Today

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