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Kidney Cancer--Men, Not Women, Lower Their Risk by Working Outdoors

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Men employed in occupations requiring them to work outdoors have lower risk of kidney cancer compared to their male counterparts who work indoors, according to a new study.

Sara Karami, Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Md., and her colleagues designed a case-control study—the largest of its kind— to explore whether occupational sunlight exposure is associated with kidney cancer risk because the incidence of kidney cancer and the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency have increased over the past few decades.

Research suggests that vitamin D obtained from sun exposure, some foods, and from supplements may help prevent some cancers. Vitamin D is metabolized and most active within the kidneys.

While the study, published early online in Cancer, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, did not directly address if high sunshine exposure can help prevent kidney cancer, it did find that men exposed to daily sunshine reduced their kidney cancer risk as much as 38 percent. However, women who spend their occupational hours outdoors do not reap any benefits.

The authors have no explanation why there are observed risk differences between men and women, but they offered several hypotheses. Foremost, biological or behavioral differences between men and women may be at play. For example, hormonal differences may influence the body's response to sunlight exposure. Females also have a higher tendency to use sunscreen on a regular basis, and men are prone to working outdoors while shirtless. It is also possible that the observed sex differences in risk were due to other unmeasured kidney cancer risk factors, such as recreational sunlight exposure and physical activity levels.

While this study's findings raise the possibility of a link between sunlight exposure and kidney cancer risk, "they clearly need to be replicated in other populations and in studies that use better estimates of long-term ultraviolet exposure and vitamin D intake," said Dr. Karami.

Excessive sun exposure is directly linked to the increase of melanoma skin cancer, and can cause skin damage, eye damage, and immune system suppression.

Add a Comment2 Comments

It's a good question Pat. I believe the days of the "healthy tan" are gone as we learn more about devastating melanoma skin cancer (the most diagnosed cancer) and how it is now affecting many more people in their 20s and early 30s who were unknowingly over-exposed to the sun's UV rays at an very early age.
We have also learn that an unintended consequence of public awareness campaigns about skin cancer is people have also learned to fear the sun, and as a result, most Americans (three-quarter of US teens and adults according to the latest figures from the Institutes of Health) are now suffering from vitamin D deficiencies that is also harming our health and causing other types of cancer, diabetes, autoimmune and other chronic diseases. Women and children need vitamin D to help establish and maintain bone health. Clearly, it is a delicate balancing act.

Many health experts say 5 to 20 minutes per day in the sun is all we need to synthesize the natural vitamin D from the rays. Unlike vitamin supplements, people can not overdose on vitamin D from the sun, but we can get skin damage, the first step toward skin cancer.

Most health experts believe people should get 99 percent of their vitamin D from the sun but the use of sunscreens are preventing natural vitamin D absorption from occurring. The New York Department of Health recommends applying the sunscreen after 5-15 minutes in the sun to protect skin from overexposure. That sounds a bit inconvenient, but like sound advice. Maybe others have different advice they will share.

March 11, 2010 - 9:47am
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger

Lynette - This is fascinating information, thanks. How does someone know the difference between "healthy" sun exposure and "excessive" sun exposure? Are there published guidelines? Pat

March 10, 2010 - 5:20pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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