Low Sunlight Exposure and Higher Risk for Pancreatic Cancer

What You Need to Know: People living in countries with low levels of sunlight have a substantially increased risk for pancreatic cancer, even after taking into account a number of factors associated with the disease. Researchers found that low exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) irradiance, which is related to both latitude and the degree of cloud cover, was associated with a six-fold increased risk for pancreatic cancer.

The Study: Investigators obtained age-standardized pancreatic cancer incidence rates for 172 countries from the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s GLOBOCAN 2008 database.

  • Data on energy intake from animal sources and alcohol consumption were obtained from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Health Organization provided information on the prevalence of obesity, the sex-specific smoking prevalence, and per capita health expenditure.
  • Crucially, data from the NASAs International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project, which pertain to geographical variations in solar irradiance, allowed estimated UVB irradiance levels to be corrected for percentage cloud cover, inasmuch as heavy cloud cover does not transmit UVB.

Results: Overall, there was a higher incidence rate of pancreatic cancer with lower cloud-adjusted UVB irradiance, such that residents of countries with low UVB irradiance were approximately six times more likely to have incident pancreatic cancer than those living in countries with high UVB irradiance (P < .0001 for males and females).

The associations remained significant after taking into account per capita health expenditure, the geographical distribution, and factors known to be associated with pancreatic cancer, such as diabetes, obesity, alcohol consumption, and smoking. Interestingly, consumption of animal protein was positively associated pancreatic cancer in both sexes (P = .0190 in males; P = .0156 in females).

My Take: Given the strong association between UVB irradiance and pancreatic cancer risk, what about using vitamin D in an attempt to prevent or even treat pancreatic e cancer? There are a number of ongoing studies in both animal and human models on whether pancreatic cancer can be treated with vitamin D. Moderate doses of vitamin D seem reasonable as both a potential risk-reduction agent for a dreadful disease, and for consideration among those with pancreas cancer. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Reference: American Society of Breast Surgeons (ASBS) 16th Annual Meeting. Presented April 30, 2015.

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