Sunlight exposure and cancer risk

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: November 28th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

To sunbathe or not to sunbathe? We posed that question several months ago and the answer keeps changing.

Previously, we reported how researchers advised the public to use vitamin D-fortified foods and supplements instead of intentional sun exposure to maintain an adequate supply of vitamin D. Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight is one source of vitamin D, which is important for strong bones, liver health and protection against several cancer types.

Too much ultraviolet radiation, though, not only produces wrinkles and unsightly skin damage, but also causes more than a million skin cancers yearly in the U-S.

Now a recent nationwide study in the journal Anticancer Research confirms that ultraviolet sunlight exposure… in moderation… is associated with reduced risk of cancer at sixteen different sites in the body, apparently through production of vitamin D. These cancers include six sites of gastrointestinal cancer, two forms of lymphoma and several malignancies of the female anatomy and the urinary and digestive tracts.

Researchers say maintaining normal levels of the vitamin D hormone appears to be the single most important thing people can do to reduce their risk of cancer, aside from avoiding tobacco and moderation in drinking alcohol.

Twenty to thirty minutes of daily sunlight exposure is all that’s needed to maintain adequate amounts of vitamin D. Any more is counterproductive.

You should wear a hat whenever spending more than a few minutes in the sun and should spend the time walking or moving around.

That’s today’s hot health tip.