Getting a daily dose of sunshine may do more than lift your mood, a new study has shown. Vitamin D, which our bodies mainly get from sunshine, may have a role to play in preventing certain types of cancer.
About the Study
A new study recently out of the University of Michigan’s cancer research facility suggests that an enzyme that plays a role in metabolising vitamin D may predict the survival rates of people suffering from lung cancer.
Lung cancer is a potentially fatal disease that affects more than 9,560 Australians every year. It is the leading case of death due to cancer, causing almost one in five cancer deaths. In 2006, there were a staggering 7,397 deaths from lung cancer.
Higher levels of vitamin D in the body may prevent many types of cancer or increase the rates of survival, previous studies have shown. The new study links the role that calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D, has on lung cancer. If you have higher levels of vitamin D, the study shows you are more likely to survive lung cancer. Researchers are now looking at ways to identify who will be able to benefit most from supplementing their bodies with the vitamin.
It’s difficult to get enough vitamin D from the diet alone – you can ingest it from fatty fish such as sardines and tuna, or get it from eggs, mushrooms or beef, but the body’s principal way of obtaining vitamin D is through exposure to sunlight. The sun’s rays hitting your uncovered skin – and that means no sunscreen – manufactures chemicals that are converted into vitamin D.
Lack of vitamin D in our bodies may make us susceptible to a host of diseases, such as osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis and many types of cancer. It’s also crucial to our immune systems, which is why we are more susceptible to colds and viruses in winter than summer – there’s simply not enough sunlight to get enough vitamin D.
Top Up Your Vitamin D
So to top up your levels, make sure you get a little bit of sun every day. It’s the UVB rays that are the important ones here, which you can get between 10am and 2pm daily. If you are fair-skinned, 10 minutes daily in summer and 20 minutes in winter are sufficient, but if you are dark skinned, you may need to double this exposure.
To keep your body healthy and protected, eat fresh, wholesome foods with plenty of vegetables, fruit and whole grains. And to prevent lung cancer, if you smoke there’s one simple message – stop. See your GP for advice about quitting.
Reference: Clinical Cancer Research, Vol. 17, No. 4, pp. 817-826