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Exposure to sunlight may decrease risk of advanced breast cancer by half
Date:10/18/2007

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- A research team from the Northern California Cancer Center, the University of Southern California, and Wake Forest University School of Medicine has found that increased exposure to sunlight which increases levels of vitamin D in the body -- may decrease the risk of advanced breast cancer.

In a study reported online this week in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the researchers found that women with high sun exposure had half the risk of developing advanced breast cancer, which is cancer that has spread beyond the breast, compared to women with low sun exposure. These findings were observed only for women with naturally light skin color. The study defined high sun exposure as having dark skin on the forehead, an area that is usually exposed to sunlight.

The scientists used a portable reflectometer to measure skin color on the underarm, an area that is usually not directly exposed to sunlight. Based on these measurements, they classified the women as having light, medium or dark natural skin color. Researchers then compared sun exposure between women with breast cancer and those without breast cancer. Sun exposure was measured as the difference in skin color between the underarm and the forehead.

In women with naturally light skin pigmentation, the group without breast cancer had significantly more sun exposure than the group with breast cancer. The fact that this difference occurred only in one group suggests that the effect was due to differences in vitamin D production and wasnt just because the women were sick and unable to go outdoors. In addition, the effect held true regardless of whether the cancer was diagnosed in the summer or in the winter. The difference was seen only in women with advanced disease, suggesting that vitamin D may be important in slowing the growth of breast cancer cells.

We believe that sunlight helps to reduce womens risk of breast cancer because the body manufac
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Contact: Karen Richardson
krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu
336-716-4453
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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