For protection against melanoma, it is suggested that serum 25(OH)D levels be kept at or above 40 ng/mL (100 nM/L). 

Melanoma is a form of skin cancer originating in melanocytes in the epidermis.

There are many risk factors for melanoma, including genetic factors, diet and alcohol consumption1, presence of multiple nevi (moles, partly genetically dependent), high body mass index2, and ultraviolet exposure, notably intermittent exposure often accompanied by sunburn.

UVB may reduce the risk of melanoma two ways:

  • by production of vitamin D
  • by induction of elastosis (skin wrinkling) although how elsatosis retards melanoma is not understood.

Higher serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] levels at time of diagnosis were found associated with improved survival rate.

For protection against melanoma, serum 25(OH)D levels above 40 ng/mL (100 nM/L) may reduce the risk.

Melanoma has a mortality case-fatality rate around 10-25% in many Western countries based on mortality to incidence rates for 20083.

Melanoma has a high mortality rate per incident case, around 15-30% in many western countries.

Skin type is a strong determinant, being mostly genetically determined.  Light skin has more sulfur-containing pheomelanin than dark skin, which has relatively more eumelanin. Pheomelanin is reddish, while eumelanin is dark brown or black. Pheomelanin may act as a photocarcinogen via radical production.

Thus, persons with red hair, freckles and Celtic ancestry have a high fraction of pheomelanin and an increased risk of melanoma as well as a general inability to tan4.

It is estimated that in the United States, there will be 68,130 new cases of melanoma and 8,700 deaths due to melanoma in 20105, implying a survival rate of 87%.

Page last edited: 18 July 2011


  1. Millen, A. E. Tucker, M. A. Hartge, P. Halpern, A. Elder, D. E. Guerry, D. th Holly, E. A. Sagebiel, R. W. Potischman, N. Diet and melanoma in a case-control study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2004 Jun; 13 (6): 1042-51.
  2. Renehan, A. G. et al. Body-mass index and incidence of cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective observational studies. Lancet. 2008 Feb; 371 (9612): 569-78.
  3. Ferlay, J. Shin, H. R. Bray, F. Forman, D. Mathers, C. Parkin, D. M. GLOBOCAN 2008, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC CancerBase No. 10. 2010; 2011 (6/25/2011):
  4. Scott, M. C. Wakamatsu, K. Ito, S. Kadekaro, A. L. Kobayashi, N. Groden, J. Kavanagh, R. Takakuwa, T. Virador, V. Hearing, V. J. Abdel-Malek, Z. A. Human melanocortin 1 receptor variants, receptor function and melanocyte response to UV radiation. J Cell Sci. 2002 Jun 1; 115 (Pt 11): 2349-55.
  5. Jemal, A. Siegel, R. Xu, J. Ward, E. Cancer statistics, 2010. CA Cancer J Clin. 2010 Sep-Oct; 60 (5): 277-300.