A recent study conducted by Northern California Cancer Centre, the University of Southern California, and Wake Forest University School of Medicine, has shown that women with increased exposure to sun have a chance of halving their risk of developing advanced breast cancer.
The study was conducted on 1788 breast cancer patients who were matched against 2,129 women without breast cancer. This control group consisted of non-Hispanic white, Hispanic and African-American women, thus including women with a wide range of skin colour.
The study measured the amount of sun exposure and the levels of vitamin D produced in their bodies. It is believed that it is this active vitamin D produced by sunlight that is responsible for reducing the risk of advanced breast cancer, i.e. cancer that has spread beyond the breast, in patients.
Benefits of vitamin D have been widely documented and it is a known fact today that bloods levels of below 20ng/ml predisposes an individual to almost every degenerative condition seen in the modern man. Importance of vitamin D is also due to the fact that it controls the expression of about 1000 genes, eventually responsible for cellular mechanisms controlling inflammation, promoting immune system, DNA repair, cell growth and death. Cancer tops the list of diseases that are caused by seasonally low levels of vitamin D n the body.
In this study, scientists used a portable reflectometer to measure skin colour on the underarm, an area that is usually not directly exposed to sunlight and compared this to the skin colour on the forehead. The difference was used in determining the level of sun exposure and therefore the amount of vitamin D produced in the body. Researchers then compared sun exposure between women with breast cancer and those without breast cancer. New findings suggest that vitamin D may have helped slowing the progression of breast cancer in patients, thereby reducing their risk of developing an advanced cancer.
It is important to note that sunlight is not the only source of vitamin D. Excessive exposure to sunlight in an attempt to increase vitamin D levels would increase the risk of sun induced skin cancer. Therefore, other sources of vitamin D like multivitamins, fatty fish and fortified foods such as milk; certain cereals and fruit juices etc should be consumed.
“If future studies continue to show reductions in breast cancer risk associated with sun exposure, increasing vitamin D intake from diet and supplements may be the safest solution to achieve adequate levels of vitamin D,” said Gary Schwartz, Ph.D., a co-researcher from the Comprehensive Cancer Centre at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.
“Since many risk factors for breast cancer are not modifiable, our finding that a modifiable factor, vitamin D, may reduce risk is important,” said Sue Ingles, Ph.D., a co-researcher from University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine.