NEWS 69 JUNE 2002

Sunshine has had a bad press recently. However a new study shows that insufficient exposure to ultraviolet radiation may be an important risk factor for cancer in western Europe and North America. When US mortality rates for cancer were examined, it was found that a range of cancers of the digestive and reproductive systems in New England were close to double those in the south west US, despite only minor variations in dietary habits. Looking at 506 different regions of the US it was found that there was a close inverse correlation between cancer mortality and levels of ultraviolet B light. It is suggested that the protective effect of sunlight is a stimulus to the body to synthesise vitamin D. The strongest correlation with lack of sunlight was found with cancers of the breast, colon, and ovaries. Other cancers seemingly affected by sunlight include the bladder, uterus, oesophagus, rectum, and stomach. The study suggests that around 85,000 additional cancers and 30,000 additional deaths will be attributable to lack of sunlight in the year 2002. At the same time the total number of additional deaths from melanoma and other skin cancers that would occur with uniform exposure across the US to sunlight equivalent to the south west would be about 3000. The authors suggest that the sun exposure debate has been overly dominated by dermatologists. (Cancer 2002;94:1867-75) In an earlier study, 25% of cases of breast cancer in 35 European countries were attributed to insufficient exposure to ultraviolet B. (Cancer 2002;94:272-81).

A study of 782 healthy couples using natural family planning methods found that women aged 19-26 had around a 50% chance of pregnancy in any one menstrual cycle, falling to around 40% for women aged 27 to 34, and for women aged 35-39, it was less than 30% if the woman had a partner the same age. The chance of pregnancy fell to around 20% if the man was five years older. However there was a lot of variation among healthy couples in their fertility that was not accounted for by age (Human Reproduction 2002 Vol 17 No 6 1299-1403).

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful