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Could sunlight reduce your risk of pancreatic cancer? A new study has revealed an association between UVB exposure and incidence of pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer causes symptoms that can include jaundice, abdominal pain, weight loss, loss of appetite, fatigue, and depression. Known risk factors for pancreatic cancer include smoking, chronic inflammation of the pancreas, excessive intake of red meat, and diabetes.

In the first study aimed at assessing the incidence of pancreatic cancer according to UVB exposure, researchers obtained NASA satellite data for cloud cover around the world and calculated incidence of pancreatic cancer according to estimated UVB exposure. The rates of pancreatic cancer incidence and mortality in different countries were retrieved from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) GLOBOCAN 2008 database.

The study reported an inverse association between the rates of pancreatic cancer and UVB radiation. That is, higher rates of pancreatic cancer were found in countries with a lower calculated level of UVB radiation. The results were seen for both men and women, and were consistent when taking into account obesity, cigarette consumption, animal protein consumption, diabetes, alcohol consumption, and healthcare expenditures.

According to the authors of the study, the results support the thought that variations in vitamin D levels, which are correlated with sun exposure, can account for a global variation in pancreatic cancer. They state however, that there are likely other factors involved, such as dietary and genetic factors, which may also play a role in protecting or predisposing to pancreatic cancer development.


Garland, CF, Cuomo, RE, Gorham, ED, Zeng, K, Mohr, SB. “Cloud cover-adjusted ultraviolet B irradiance and pancreatic cancer incidence in 172 countries” The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Available online 9 April 2015.

Canadian Cancer Society – Pancreatic Cancer Information. Available from: Last Accessed: May 8, 2015.

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Written by Deborah Tallarigo, PhD

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