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Kidney Cancer: is sunlight good and vitamin D bad?

Kidney cancer and sunlight. By Marc Sorenson, EdD

Kidney cancer is positively associated with vitamin D supplements—maybe.

There are 62,700 cases of kidney cancer and 14,240 deaths annually. Kidney cancer can be a killer, and maybe sunlight exposure can reduce its risk.  And, it is not vitamin D and kidney cancer, but sunlight and kidney cancer, which really piques my interest. I am an advocate of vitamin D and health if vitamin D is obtained from sun exposure to the skin. So today, I was alerted to an article that D supplements—in one subject—was associated with kidney cancer. Consequently, my mind immediately travelled to the book I wrote with William Grant: Embrace the sun.

Kidney cancer studies compiled in Embrace the Sun:

We referenced several studies, which determined that sun exposure reduced many cancers, including kidney cancer, by 35% to 42%.[1] Kidney cancer mortality rates were also found to be strongly inversely correlated with sunshine doses in Dr. Grant’s studies.[2], [3]

Kidney cancer, sunlight and women

Recent research has also demonstrated that high levels of sun exposure in women significantly reduces kidney cancer.[4] Those women with the highest fourth of sun exposure showed a 33% reduction in risk. Interestingly, the data was adjusted for vitamin D intake, and the results still showed sun exposure to have a stand-alone protective influence on kidney cancer—another indication that sun exposure has protective effects beyond the benefits of vitamin D.

Other studies on kidney cancer, using different designs, have produced comparable effects: A study of Swedish construction workers showed a significant 30% decrease in risk among men with the highest sun exposure.

Why would vitamin D supplementation be a negative for kidney cancer?

So why would vitamin D supplementation have deleterious effects on kidney cancer, when sunlight appears to have such salubrious effects on kidney cancer? First of all, one person does not research make! Secondly, the doses of vitamin D were also quite high, 8,000-12-000 IU per day. Thirdly, the vitamin was not produced by the sun, meaning that the subject’s kidney were not protected by the whole gamut of sun-stimulated photoproducts such as nitric oxide, serotonin, endorphin, dopamine, brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) and many others that we have yet to discover.

Summary:

All of the sun’s photoproducts have a place in the choir. Sun exposure should be used holistically. I have been beating that drum for some time. One cannot take a vitamin D pill and hope to achieve all the health benefits of whole-sun exposure.

It is also imperative to understand that toxic levels of vitamin D are not produced by sun. The body self-regulates vitamin D levels when they are produced in the skin by sun exposure. Sunlight is vital to human life. Be sure to get your share of non-burning, safe sunlight and protect yourself from kidney cancer. And while you are sunning, be sure to read the book, Embrace the Sun. And for more information on Kidney cancer, sunlight and vitamin D visit Sunlight institute.


[1] Tuohimaa P, Pukkala E, Scélo G, Olsen JH, Brewster DH, Hemminki K, Tracey E, Weiderpass E, Kliewer EV, Pompe-Kirn V, McBride ML, Martos C, Chia KS, Tonita JM, Jonasson JG, Boffetta P, Brennan P. Does solar exposure, as indicated by the non-melanoma skin cancers, protect from solid cancers: vitamin D as a possible explanation. Eur J Cancer 2007;43(11):1701-12

[2] Grant WB. An estimate of premature cancer mortality in the US due to inadequate doses of solar ultraviolet-B radiation. Cancer. 2002 Mar 15;94(6):1867-75.

[3] Grant WB, Garland CF. The association of solar ultraviolet B (UVB) with reducing risk of cancer: multifactorial ecologic analysis of geographic variation in age-adjusted cancer mortality rates. Anticancer Res. 2006 Jul-Aug;26(4A):2687-99.

[4] Karami S, Colt JS, Stewart PA, Schwartz K, Davis FG, Ruterbusch JJ, Chow WH, Wacholder S, Graubard BI, Purdue MP, Moore LE. Short Report: A case-control study of occupational sun exposure and renal cancer risk. Int J Cancer. 2015 Oct 27.

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