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Tomorrow is the first day of summer! The days are longer and sun stronger! Local dermatologist, Dr. Ted Stampien, Jr. can be seen driving his convertible with so much protection from the sun; he may as well have the top UP (bucket hat, sun block 50, long sleeves)! He joked that even the most vigilant dermatologists allow for a little fun in the sun. However, he emphasizes that there is no such thing as a HEALTHY tan.

While protection from the sun is very important, Dr. Stampien feels that too much time indoors playing computer games and watching television, can lead to potential problems from lack of exposure to the sun. One must use good judgment and have balance as the potential exists for Vitamin D deficiency due to lack of sun exposure. This problem may be true for individuals who use too much protection or spend most of their day indoors due to occupation or poor health. Therefore, it will be the purpose of this column to discuss the importance of Vitamin D for health and wellness.

What is Vitamin D

Vitamin D, a fat soluble vitamin, is found in food and can be made by your body after exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. The liver and kidney help convert Vitamin D to its active form. Vitamin D assists calcium absorption, which is essential for normal development and in forming and maintaining strong bones and teeth. Without Vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle and soft. The classic Vitamin D deficiency diseases are rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Rickets results in skeletal deformities. Osteomalacia is the softening of bones. Vitamin D is essential for normal bone health and may diminish or prevent the onset of osteoporosis in the elderly.

The requirement for Vitamin D is dependent on age, sex, degree of sun exposure and the amount of pigmentation in the skin. Since Vitamin D can be produced by the body and retained for long periods of time by the body’s tissues, the precise daily requirement has been difficult to determine. Instead, an Adequate Intake (AI) level has been established. AI is a level of intake sufficient to maintain healthy blood levels of an active form of Vitamin D. The AIs are similar for males and females but increase with age:

Sources of Vitamin D:

Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency can occur when dietary intake of Vitamin D is inadequate, when there is limited sunlight exposure, when the kidney cannot convert Vitamin D to its active form or when Vitamin D is inadequately absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract. Season, geographic location, time of day, cloud cover, air pollution, sunscreens, living indoors and living in cities where tall buildings block adequate sunlight from reaching the ground affect UV ray exposure. Individuals with limited sun exposure are at risk of Vitamin D deficiency. Homebound individuals, people living in northern latitudes (e.g. New England, Alaska), individuals who cover their bodies for religious reasons and people whose occupations prevent exposure to sunlight may need to supplement with Vitamin D.

Sunscreens with a sun protection factor of 8 or greater will block UV rays that produce Vitamin D. Older adults have a higher risk for Vitamin D deficiency because the skin’s ability to convert Vitamin D to its active form decreases with age and the kidneys, which help convert Vitamin D to its active form, do not work as well when people age. Individuals with pancreatic enzyme deficiency, Chron’s disease, cystic fibrosis, sprue, liver disease, surgical removal of part or all of the stomach or small bowel disease may need extra Vitamin D because Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and they have reduced ability to absorb dietary fat. Vitamin D supplements are often recommended for exclusively breast-fed infants because human milk may not contain adequate Vitamin D. Consult with your pediatrician on this issue.

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This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.

For all of Dr. Mackarey's Articles visit:

Protect your Skin for it Health

Skin Cancer

Despite the fact that we have limited exposure to sunny days in NEPA (50%), skin cancer still exists in large numbers. Skin cancer is the most common cause of cancer in the United States. While there are several types of skin cancer and not necessarily all are deadly, procedures to remove these skin cancers are both costly and frequently result in unsightly scars. The most dangerous type of skin cancer, called melanoma, results in an estimated 10,000 deaths per year. The good news? Nearly all skin cancers are preventable!

UV rays

The majority of skin cancers are caused by harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Two major types are UVA and UVB:

Protect your Skin for its Looks


In the field of anti-aging, advertisers make lofty promises for many products that claim to contain or boost collagen. Whether or not these work is a whole other discussion, but what is collagen and what does it have to do with wrinkles?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It is found in nearly all tissues and organs, and plays a crucial role in maintaining structural integrity. Unfortunately, collagen production naturally decreases with age. This causes many of the findings we associate with older age, such as sagging skin and wrinkles, as well as joint pain. Collagen also works together with another important protein called elastin, which helps to maintain elasticity – a feature commonly associated with youthful skin.

When exposed to UV rays, these proteins can become damaged. For instance, studies have shown that skin exposed to UV rays increases the expression of proteins called matrix metalloproteinases, or MMPs. You can think of these MMPs as collagen’s enemy, as they cause their degradation. This results in a decrease in collagen’s structural function leading to loose and wrinkled skin. UV rays can also stimulate the production of reactive oxygen species. These are substances such as hydrogen peroxide and bleach, which further cause destruction of skin’s microscopic structure.

Sunscreen Tips & Tricks

So, you’re convinced and have decided to keep your skin healthy and youthful – what next? With so many different products on the market, choosing a daily sunscreen can become a difficult task. Here are a few pointers:

Another consideration when choosing a sunscreen is chemical versus physical blockers:

If preventing skin cancer isn’t incentive enough to wear sunscreen daily and avoid excessive sun exposure (and indoor tanning booths!), then consider the rapid effects on aging the sun’s rays can have. While a tan may look good for a week, avoiding exposure to UV rays will both delay and prevent aging for years.

For more information on skin cancer and prevention, please visit the Center for Disease Control’s website ( and contact your physician for specific concerns regarding spots on your skin.

This column is a monthly feature of “Health & Exercise Forum” in association with the students and faculty of Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.

This week’s article was written by Eduardo Ortiz, a fourth year medical student at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine (GCSOM). Eduardo majored in Biology and minored in Art History at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. As president of the Dermatology Interest group, he helped organize a free skin cancer screening with local dermatologists earlier this year.

Read Dr. Mackarey’s Health & Exercise Forum – every Monday. This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

See all of Dr. Mackarey's articles in his "Health and Exercise Forum" at

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.