Sun Exposure Can Help Lower Pancreatic Cancer Risk

The risk of pancreatic cancer is decreased in individuals with a history of skin cancer, as well as for people who are born in a location with elevated levels of ultraviolet radiation and in those with skin sensitive to sunlight. This is according to a study presented by Rachel Neale, Ph.D., at the Pancreatic Cancer: Progress and Challenges conference.

Leading the study, Neale’s findings contribute to existing conflicting data about sun exposure, vitamin D derived sun exposure, and cancer risk. Her study result supports previous ecological data, which indicates that sun exposure has a protective effect against pancreatic cancer.

Between 2007 and 2011, the study involved 713 Australians who were matched to 709 control participants according to age and sex. The research team surveyed all participants regarding their socio-demographic information and medical history, in addition to their birth location, history of skin cancer and skin type in terms of skin color, risk of sunburn and tanning capacity.

The research team then assigned an appropriate ultraviolet radiation rating for each birth location using NASA’s Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer, and then split the locations into three groups according to radiation level. The investigators found that pancreatic cancer risk was 24% lower for individuals born in areas with the highest levels of ultraviolet radiation compared with those born in low ultraviolet radiation locations.

Although there is the fact that all skin types face a risk for developing pancreatic cancer, the researchers found that those with the most sun-sensitive skin had a 49% lower risk compared with those with less sun-sensitive skin. Additionally, the risk of pancreatic cancer was 40% lower among participants who had a history of skin cancer or other related skin lesions when compared to individuals who had not reported any form of skin lesion.

Neale claims, "There is increasing interest in the role of sun exposure, which has been largely attributed to the effect of vitamin D, on cancer incidence and mortality. It is important that we understand the risks and benefits of sun exposure because it has implications for public health messages about sun exposure, and possibly about policy related to vitamin D supplementation or food fortification."

Neale believes that large cohort studies are needed to determine the impact of sun exposure and vitamin D levels on a more comprehensive level. She concludes that, "There are several trials of vitamin D that are either under way or planned, and pooling data from these might give some clue about vitamin D and pancreatic cancer."


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