Pancreatic cancer risk linked to weak sunlight

April 30, 2015, University of California - San Diego
Maps depict global incidence rates of pancreatic cancer (per 100,000) and ultraviolet B radiation (watts per square meter). Credit: UC San Diego School of Medicine

Writing in the April 30 online issue of the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine report pancreatic cancer rates are highest in countries with the least amount of sunlight. Low sunlight levels were due to a combination of heavy cloud cover and high latitude.

"If you're living at a high latitude or in a place with a lot of heavy cloud cover, you can't make vitamin D most of the year, which results in a higher-than-normal risk of getting pancreatic cancer," said first author Cedric F. Garland, DrPH, adjunct professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health and member of UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center.

"People who live in sunny countries near the equator have only one-sixth of the age-adjusted incidence rate of pancreatic cancer as those who live far from it. The importance of sunlight deficiency strongly suggests - but does not prove - that vitamin D deficiency may contribute to risk of pancreatic cancer."

Limited foods naturally contain vitamin D. Fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna, are good sources; beef liver, cheese and egg yolks provide small amounts. Vitamin D is often added as a fortifying nutrient to milk, cereals and juices, but experts say most people also require additional vitamin D to be produce by the body when skin is directly exposed to sunlight. Specifically, ultraviolet B radiation. Skin exposed to sunshine indoors through a window will not produce vitamin D. Cloudy skies, shade and dark-colored skin also reduce vitamin D production.

The UC San Diego team, led by Garland and Edward D. Gorham, PhD, associate professor, had previously shown that sufficient levels of a metabolite of vitamin D in the serum, known as 25-hydroxyvitamin D was associated with substantially lower risk of breast and colorectal cancer. The current paper is the first to implicate vitamin D deficiency with pancreatic cancer.

Researchers studied data from 107 countries, taking into account international differences and possible confounders, such as alcohol consumption, obesity and smoking. "While these other factors also contribute to risk, the strong inverse association with cloud-cover adjusted sunlight persisted even after they were accounted for," said Garland.

UC San Diego researchers had previously identified an association of high latitude with a higher risk of pancreatic cancer. Garland said the new study advances that finding by showing that an estimate of solar ultraviolet B that has been adjusted for heavy produces an even stronger prediction of risk of .

Pancreatic cancer is the 12th most common cancer in the world, according to World Cancer Research Fund International, with 338,000 new cases diagnosed annually. Incidence rates are highest in North America and Europe; lowest in Africa and Asia. It is the seventh most common cause of death from cancer.

Explore further: Vitamin D increases breast cancer patient survival

Related Stories

Vitamin D increases breast cancer patient survival

March 6, 2014
Breast cancer patients with high levels of vitamin D in their blood are twice as likely to survive the disease as women with low levels of this nutrient, report University of California, San Diego School of Medicine researchers ...

Low vitamin D levels linked to high risk of premenopausal breast cancer

January 24, 2013
A prospective study led by researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine has found that low serum vitamin D levels in the months preceding diagnosis may predict a high risk of premenopausal breast ...

Lower vitamin D level in blood linked to higher premature death rate

June 12, 2014
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have found that persons with lower blood levels of vitamin D were twice as likely to die prematurely as people with higher blood levels of vitamin ...

Researchers reveal how pancreatic cancer cells sidestep chemotherapy

January 30, 2015
Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of the disease. The American Cancer Society's most recent estimates for 2014 show that over 46,000 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and more than 39,000 will ...

Recommended for you

'Liquid biopsy' predicts lymphoma therapy success within days, study finds

August 20, 2018
A blood test can predict which patients with a type of cancer called diffuse large B cell lymphoma are likely to respond positively to initial therapy and which are likely to need more aggressive treatment, according to a ...

Study shows how to make (and destroy) a metastatic cancer cell

August 20, 2018
Many cancers become especially dangerous only when they metastasize from their site of origin to faraway tissues such as lung, brain or bone. Now, a University of Colorado Cancer Center study published today in the Proceedings ...

Research team develops predictor for immunotherapy response in melanoma

August 20, 2018
In a new study, researchers developed a gene expression predictor that can indicate whether melanoma in a specific patient is likely to respond to treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors, a novel type of immunotherapy. ...

Study details effect of radiation exposure on hormone deficiencies

August 20, 2018
In a new study, University of Cincinnati (UC) researchers, in collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital, have detailed the effect of radiation exposure on the development of hormone deficiency in pediatric and young ...

Scientists discover new method of diagnosing cancer with malaria protein

August 17, 2018
In a spectacular new study, researchers from the University of Copenhagen have discovered a method of diagnosing a broad range of cancers at their early stages by utilising a particular malaria protein that sticks to cancer ...

Researchers find pathways that uncover insight into development of lung cancer

August 17, 2018
Lung cancer is the leading cause of preventable cancer death. A disease of complex origin, lung cancer is usually considered to result from effects of smoking and from multiple genetic variants. One of these genetic components, ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

sblythe
not rated yet Apr 30, 2015
This is interesting, but I wonder if the researchers adjusted risk based on the variable of access to diagnostic services. The countries with a low incidence of pancreatic cancers are primarily third-world countries. Pancreatic cancer strikes hard and kills fast. In many poor countries it most likely is never diagnosed because to diagnose it requires at the minimum a CT scan, although technically a tissue biopsy is required to officially make the diagnosis. Many poor people get sick, lose weight, and die without the "benefit" of CT scans and chemotherapy.
Shapoval
not rated yet May 06, 2015
Pancreatic Cancer, UC San Diego Researchers and Father of Oncology. Because cancer researchers scared they will lose money-2015-2050 due to new anticancer iron-deficiency methods, pancreatic cancer can be hard to treat. Scientific iron/cancer information-1905-2015 is largely distorted. Pancreatic cancer is fundamentally a disease caused by cellular iron overload, the Father of Oncology says. Primary tumors always develop at body sites of excessive iron deposits. Such deposits can be inherited or acquired. Cancer is the result of bad luck. UC San Diego researchers can beat pancreatic cancer. Direct intratumoral injections of iron-deficiency agents (ceramic needles) can successfully eliminate inoperable tumors and metastases. Personalized clinical iron-deficiency methods can successfully neutralize micrometastases and HIV. Cancer can be beaten http://www.medica...s/184826 ; http://medicalxpr...ght.html ; Shapoval

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.