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Sunshine May Provide Prostate Protection

Prostate Cancer Risk Linked to Vitamin D From Sunlight

Sun Exposure and Prostate Cancer

John, Brooks, and colleagues decided not to take a one-time measure of vitamin D levels or to rely on people's estimates of sun exposure. They used a device to compare skin pigmentation on a person's exposed skin to pigmentation on that person's unexposed skin. They then calculated that person's sun exposure.

The researchers studied 450 non-Hispanic white Americans with prostate cancer and compared them with 455 similar men without prostate cancer.

The bottom line: Those with high sun exposure were 49% less likely to have prostate cancer.

The researchers also got blood samples from study participants. They looked for vitamin D receptor genes.

People who carried genes for particularly effective vitamin D receptors were 54% to 33% less likely to have prostate cancer, depending on the gene involved.

All this is very interesting to cancer researcher Jay Brooks, MD, chief of hematology/oncology at the Ochsner Clinic in Baton Rouge, La.

"These are very interesting and intriguing observations," Brooks tells WebMD. "One interesting thing is the vitamin D aspect. Another thing is the cancer risk reduction with certain genes of an individual. We are beginning to look at genetic markers that predict a risk of certain cancers. In terms of prostate cancer, hopefully we will soon have improved medicines to reduce the risk of cancer in these individuals."

Brooks warns that the current study does not prove vitamin D deficiency causes prostate cancer. It's too soon, he says, for people to start taking vitamin D in hopes of cutting their risk.

"Ten years ago we thought higher levels of vitamin A would help prevent cancer, but now we know it ups the risk of lung cancer," Brooks says. "This is interesting science, but until a randomized clinical trial is done, it will not change our recommendations to patients."

Schwartz says scientists are only beginning to recognize the importance of vitamin D.

"My feeling is we are getting a better sense of vitamin D-deficiency diseases," he says. "Prostate cancer does seem to resemble rickets in this regard. We prevented rickets by putting vitamin D in milk. There is hope we could prevent prostate cancer using the same kind of approach."

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