Sun helps beat breast cancer

Daily Telegraph
Apr. 07, 2006

WOMEN with high exposure to the sun as teenagers may be protected against breast cancer in later life, doctors have found.
Boosting levels of vitamin D could be beneficial at a time when breast cells are developing. New evidence of the ability of the "sunshine vitamin" to reduce the risk of cancer comes from two studies presented in the US.

They found women with the highest levels of the vitamin produced by the body when exposed to sunlight were up to 50 per cent less likely to develop breast cancer.

This follows a study in the American Journal of Public Health last year which found a large dose of vitamin D every day could halve the risk of some cancers. Experts say vitamin D deficiency causes thousands of cancer deaths every year.

In a joint US and British study, researchers compared blood samples from 700 women with breast cancer to those of healthy women.

Those with the highest blood levels of vitamin D had a 50 per cent reduced risk of breast cancer. These women had levels of vitamin D equivalent to a daily intake of 1000 international units (IU).

Modestly higher levels than the average intake of about 320 IU resulted in a 10 per cent lower risk. A daily dose of 1000 IU would require eating up to four standard-sized portions, or about 500 grams, of oily fish.

The study involved St George's Hospital Medical School in London and researchers at Harvard University and the University of California in the US.

A second study by Canadian researchers found women who spent time outdoors or had a diet rich in vitamin D were 25 to 45 per cent less likely to develop breast cancer than women who had the lowest levels.

It involved about 1000 women with breast cancer and a comparison group of randomly selected healthy women.

Those who had not developed breast cancer were less likely to cover up when outside and more likely to have dietary sources of vitamin D, which is found in salmon, tuna and other oily fish.

They may also have been given cod liver oil, which is rich in the nutrient, as children. Youthful days in the sunshine could also have played a part.

Lead researcher Julia Knight of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto said: "Exposure to vitamin D when breasts are developing, particularly around adolescence, might be important."

However, skin cancer doctors warn against sunburn in childhood.

"The study shows that getting vitamin D levels up for girls around puberty and in the teens is important," the British Health Research Forum's Oliver Gillie said.

"But they don't need to expose their breasts to gain protection, just put on a swimsuit or bikini, because vitamin D is made in the skin."

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