In a new study from the University of California San Diego, researchers found that inadequate exposure to UVB light from the sun may be associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer, particularly in older people.
In the study, the team examined possible associations between global levels of UVB light in 2017 and rates of colorectal cancer for 186 countries in 2018.
They found that lower UVB exposure was strongly linked to higher rates of colorectal cancer across all age groups from 0 to over 75 years.
The association between lower UVB and risk of colorectal cancer remained strong for those aged above 45 after other factors, such as skin pigmentation, life expectancy and smoking were taken into consideration.
The authors suggest that lower UVB exposure may reduce levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has previously been associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
Future research could look directly at the potential benefits on colorectal cancer of correcting vitamin D deficiencies, especially in older age groups.
The team used UVB estimates obtained by the NASA EOS Aura spacecraft in April 2017 and data on colorectal cancer rates in 2018 for 186 countries from the Global Cancer (GLOBOCAN) database.
They also collected data for 148 countries on skin pigmentation, life expectancy, smoking, stratospheric ozone (a naturally-occurring gas that filters the sun’s radiation) and other factors which may influence health and UVB exposure from previous literature and databases.
Countries with lower UVB included Norway, Denmark and Canada, while countries with higher UVB included United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Nigeria, and India.
The researchers caution that other factors may affect UVB exposure and vitamin D levels, such as vitamin D supplements, clothing and air pollution, which were not included in the study.
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The study is published in BMC Public Health. One author of the study is Raphael Cuomo.
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