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Can the sun cure cancer?

Can the sun cure cancer?


We all know that exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer. But sunlight could also save us from other types of cancer.

There is new evidence that vitamin D - the 'sun vitamin' - can kill tumours and stop them from growing in the first place. The studies show that vitamin D - which the body produces as a response to sunshine - can fight breast, colon and prostate cancers.

It is proving so powerful that pharmaceutical companies are developing synthetic versions as cancer treatments.

According to Dr Damian Downing, editor of the Journal of Nutrition and Environmental Medicine, we need 4,000iu of vitamin D for optimal cancer prevention - that's ten times the recommended daily intake (RDI) of 400iu.

So what's the evidence that sunlight can save us from cancer?

In 2001, Nasa researchers concluded that more than 23,000 deaths in northern America could be due to lack of sunlight. Americans who live in the sunniest areas have higher mortality from skin cancer but significantly lower mortality from breast and ovarian cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer.

The National Cancer Institute in America found that cancer cells have abnormally high numbers of vitamin D 'receptors'. When vitamin D was added to the cells, it attached to the receptors and stopped cells from multiplying.

A study of 181 men with prostate cancer showed they had lower levels of active vitamin D than healthy men of the same age.

In another trial, human prostate cancer cells were implanted in mice with weak immune systems. Vitamin D was then given, and was shown to slow the growth and spread of cancer.

Other U.S. studies have found a strong correlation between breast cancer mortality and lack of exposure to ultraviolet sunlight.

As for the link between UV light and skin cancer, Dr Downing believes the picture is more complex than most people think.

"It is likely that chemicals in sun creams and pollutants such as organophosphates, PCBs and dioxins are also to blame for cancerous changes in skin," he says.

"Burning skin does cause damage, but UV in moderation can do you good."

How sunlight can help health 

Most of our vitamin D is made from cholesterol beneath the skin in a reaction that involves sunlight. Low levels of exposure to sun means low levels of vitamin D. This vitamin is vital for our body:

  • Cell growth:

    Vitamin D is involved in normal cell growth and maturation and so may play a critical role in cancer prevention.

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