A new study, analyzing the data from 107 countries, published by the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, has revealed that pancreatic cancer rate occur at a much higher rate in countries with the least amount of sunlight and high latitude. Pancreatic cancer is the 12th most common cancer in the world, causing a global public health crisis with 338,000 new cases diagnosed annually.
“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.”
Although lack of vitamin D has been correlated with other cancers, this study is the first one to associate vitamin D deficiency with pancreatic cancer. Vitamin D is found in certain food items such as fatty fish, salmon and tuna, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks provide small amounts and is often added as a fortifying nutrient to milk, cereals and juices. Vitamin D is produced by the body when skin is directly exposed to sunlight.
The researchers attribute the surprising results to solar ultraviolet B that has been adjusted for heavy cloud cover produce, a stronger prediction of pancreatic cancer risk.
Cedric F. Garland, Raphael E. Cuomo, Edward D. Gorham, Kenneth Zeng, Sharif B. Mohr. Cloud cover-adjusted ultraviolet B irradiance and pancreatic cancer incidence in 172 countries. The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2015.04.004