Vitamin D sufficiency is required for optimal health, and solar ultraviolet B (UVB) irradiance is an important source of vitamin D. UVB and/or vitamin D have been found in observational studies to be associated with reduced risk for over a dozen forms of cancer, multiple sclerosis, osteoporotic fractures, and several other diseases. On the other hand, excess UV irradiance is associated with adverse health outcomes such as cataracts, melanoma, and nonmelanoma skin cancer. Ecologic analyses are used to estimate the fraction of cancer mortality, multiple sclerosis prevalence, and cataract formation that can be prevented or delayed. Estimates from the literature are used for other diseases attributed to excess UV irradiation, additional cancer estimates, and osteoporotic fractures. These results are used to estimate the economic burdens of insufficient UVB irradiation and vitamin D insufficiency as well as excess UV irradiation in the United States for these diseases and conditions. We estimate that 50 000–63 000 individuals in the United States and 19 000–25 000 in the UK die prematurely from cancer annually due to insufficient vitamin D. The U.S. economic burden due to vitamin D insufficiency from inadequate exposure to solar UVB irradiance, diet, and supplements was estimated at $40–56 billion in 2004, whereas the economic burden for excess UV irradiance was estimated at $6–7 billion. These results suggest that increased vitamin D through UVB irradiance, fortification of food, and supplementation could reduce the health care burden in the United States, UK, and elsewhere. Further research is required to confirm these estimates.
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Vol. 81 • No. 6