Adams: How do you think our country would look in terms of healthcare costs or patient counts if every person were out there getting sensible sunlight and getting adequate vitamin D? What would change?
Dr. Holick: It's almost incalculable, because like I said if you just think about the study that was done in Finland where it can reduce your risk of getting type 1 diabetes by 80%. Studies that have been done in the United States and Europe show it can decrease risk of getting colon cancer and dying of colon cancer by 50%, prostate cancer by 50%, ovarian cancer and breast cancer by almost the same amount. The amount of not only money saved, but the amount of grief and pain and suffering that people go through with these serious chronic diseases, potentially could be avoided.
Adams: And are these all topics that you discuss in more detail in the UV advantage book?
Dr. Holick: That's correct. Not only do I discuss these topics and I think in a relatively simple, readable form, but for those that are interested in going to the source, I provide almost 100 references, scientific references for almost everything that I say in the book. So everything that I say in the book is well documented by good science.
Adams: I find that fascinating. And yet, it remains controversial in so many circles. It just seems like those old beliefs are hard to change.
Dr. Holick: It's really quite remarkable. And like I said, it was a big surprise to me, because I would have thought, and in fact I was a little bit surprised because in the beginning of the book you know that I specifically state that I do not advocate tanning. However, I also point out that for those that wish to tan, they should do it responsibly. And that in fact is the message in the book, that you should take advantage of some sensible sun exposure for your health. It's incredibly important, not only for your bone health, but for the prevention of many serious, chronic diseases. And the parents out there should really think about their children. Because I know that they're so concerned about their children, they always put a sunscreen on. And I know even from my own experience in my clinical office that African American mothers are so worried about this message that any sun exposure could increase the risk of skin cancer, that they even put sunscreen on their children. And as a result they even put them at a higher risk of developing vitamin D deficiency.
Adams: They might as well put on a suit of armor!
Dr. Holick: That's exactly right. And it's so unfortunate. And it's probably not atypical of the kind of American psyche -- that very seldom do they practice moderation, they always like the extremes. And so this is a very unfortunate extreme, to suggest that people should never be exposed to direct sunlight. In my opinion, it's really bad advice.
Adams: Have you thought about marketing a product, a watch that you can wear that senses UV radiation and tells people when they have sufficient amounts? Because they have ones that warn people about overexposure, but not ones that tell people how much sunlight they actually need.
Dr. Holick: We've thought about that, and we've developed a method where we can tell you how much vitamin D you're making, but it's somewhat cumbersome, and it's probably going to take a lot more effort before such a product could potentially be available.
Adams: I certainly hope you find cause to pursue that, because I think that would be a great aid to people. There's a big question mark when people go outside - they don't know how much time ... is it too much, is it too little? They need something they can look at, that will give them some guidance. I think that would be a popular product as the public opinion shifts on this issue.
Dr. Holick: Well, there may be some inventive individuals out there listening right now. It may spark their interest.
Adams: We'll call it the "Healthy Sun Watch" or something. Of course you'd have to enter your skin pigmentation into the device, right?
Dr. Holick: Sure. Yep.
Adams: And your latitude even? Is that true?
Dr. Holick: You could put your latitude, time of day, season of the year, you could program it all probably into a little mini-computer.
Adams: I hope to see something like that. Final question for you, Dr Holick. What's next on the horizon for you? Any other upcoming projects you'd like to mention?
Dr. Holick: Well, we're very interested now in taking the vitamin D story in cancer to the next level. We're in the process of demonstrating clearly in animal models that if you're deficient in vitamin D that it will not only cause colon cancer to be more aggressive but that the tumor will continue to grow in a very significant way. And we also are now working on developing analogs of activated vitamin D specifically to treat colon, prostate and breast cancer.
Adams: These would be oral supplements?
Dr. Holick: These would be, not supplements, but oral drugs.
Adams: OK, so these would be by prescription only. But they're molecularly identical to the activated vitamin D in your body?
Dr. Holick: Exactly, but would be more potent than the activated vitamin D.
Adams: Do you have a practice where people can visit you long distance? I mean, they can come visit you?
Dr. Holick: Yeah, I have a lot of people from around the globe that will make an appointment and see me. And I'm certainly happy to do that.
Adams: What city are you located in?
Dr. Holick: In Boston. In the University Medical Center.
Adams: OK, Boston, so not exactly the sunlight capital of the world there, either, but for those who are looking to go right to the top here, to work with the expert, can they contact you at uvadvantage.com?
Dr. Holick: It's probably difficult to do that, but I think what they could do is probably to get in touch with you and I can give you some of that information.
Adams: OK, that sounds great, I'll be happy to pass on the contact information for anyone who emails us and wants to come visit you. So we've been talking today with Dr Michael Holick, author of "The UV Advantage," who as you can see here, is an authority on vitamin D, the best-informed person I've ever spoken with on this subject. And I want to thank you very much for your time today, Dr Holick.
Dr. Holick: My pleasure, and - enjoy the sun!