Turns out getting enough sun may protect you from cancer

• Inadequate exposure to ultraviolet light is linked to colon cancer.
• A lack of UV light may reduce levels of vitamin D.
• Vitamin D can also be found in many common foods.

Can tanning help fight developing cancer?

While tanning has been linked to skin cancer, a new study found that not receiving enough sun could result in a greater risk of developing colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer.

Researchers at the University of California-San Diego said deficient exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun may increase colorectal cancer risk because meager amounts of UV light can reduce levels of vitamin D.

The sun is one of the best sources to increase levels of vitamin D, which can help protect against cancers. Additionally, vitamin D helps promote strong bones, but developing a vitamin D deficiency is worrisome since it’s been associated with numerous health problems — including increasing the risk of colorectal cancer.

“Differences in UVB light accounted for a large amount of the variation we saw in colorectal cancer rates, especially for people over age 45,” Raphael Cuomo, co-author of the study, said in a statement. “Although this is still preliminary evidence, it may be that older individuals, in particular, may reduce their risk of colorectal cancer by correcting deficiencies in vitamin D.”

How lack of sunlight is linked to colon cancer

The study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, tracked data from 186 countries to see if there was a link between UVB light from the sun and colon cancer risk.

Researchers said lower UVB exposure was significantly correlated with higher rates of colorectal cancer across all age groups and remained significant even for those over 45 even after other factors like skin pigmentation, life expectancy, and smoking habits were considered. Even location was factored in; countries like the United Kingdom, Norway, and Canada receive fewer UVB rays compared to ones that receive more like Nigeria or India.

It’s an interesting finding considering it goes against the grain when we think about the sun and cancer. The Skin Cancer Foundation warns that tanning can be extremely dangerous, especially indoor tanning where 75% of people increased the risk of developing melanoma from just one tanning session before age 35.

While tans can be perceived as demonstrating good health, they damage skin cells and accelerate aging. They also increase the risk of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

How to get enough vitamin D

After the winter months, most people should be able to get the required amount of vitamin D via sunlight, but from October to early March, the body no longer makes enough vitamin D from sunlight.

Luckily, you don’t need to go to a tanning bed for that. Several foods can provide a sufficient amount of vitamin D, including:

  • salmon
  • red meat
  • liver
  • egg yolks
  • breakfast cereals

Vitamin D is also found in supplements that can be purchased at your local pharmacy.