Lack of Vitamin D May Raise Risk of This Cancer

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Doctor talking to a patient at her office
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Living in a cloudy climate might raise your risk of developing colon cancer, according to recent research published in the journal BMC Public Health.

Exposure to more sunlight can boost your vitamin D levels, which in turn might lower your risk of colon cancer, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have found.

The researchers say countries that experience more cloudy days tend to have higher colon cancer rates. Although the researchers stress that it is too early to establish a direct, cause-and-effect link, it is possible that a lack of vitamin D is behind this increased risk of colon cancer.

The researchers also noted that earlier studies have suggested a possible link between vitamin D deficiency and an increased risk of colon cancer.

In their study, researchers analyzed data from 186 countries to find associations between local exposures to ultraviolet B (UVB) light from the sun and rates of colorectal cancer.

They found that lower UVB exposure was “significantly associated” with higher rates of colorectal cancer across all age groups, but especially for older people.

In a press release, study co-author Raphael Cuomo, an assistant professor of anesthesiology at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, says:

“Differences in UVB light accounted for a large amount of the variation we saw in colorectal cancer rates, especially for people over age 45. Although this is still preliminary evidence, it may be that older individuals, in particular, may reduce their risk of colorectal cancer by correcting deficiencies in vitamin D.”

The human body makes vitamin D naturally when the skin is exposed to sunlight. A lack of vitamin D is known to contribute to several health conditions, including:

  • Loss of bone density, which can lead to osteoporosis and bone fractures
  • Rickets, a disease that causes bones to soften and bend
  • Osteomalacia, which weakens bones and muscles and can trigger bone pain

A lack of vitamin D also may contribute to conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis. It even has been associated with COVID-19, as we reported in “Can This Vitamin Help Protect You From COVID-19?

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