We’ve always known that sunshine and fresh air is good for our bodies and our souls, but a new study suggests that spending more time out in the sun could lead to a lower risk of breast cancer in the long run.
Researchers from the Danish Cancer Society Research Center (DCRC) analyzed data from more than 38,000 women under the age of 70 who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Each woman was compared against five healthy females randomly selected from a public register. The women’s job history was collected from records of Danish pension funds, and their sunlight exposure was calculated via a “job matrix.”
The study’s results showed that women over the age of 50 who worked outdoors for 20-plus years had a breast cancer risk 17 percent lower than other women their age.
It’s not yet clear exactly what the link is between spending lots of time outdoors over the course of several years and the lowered risk of breast cancer, but scientists say it may have something to do with high exposure to vitamin D.
Vitamin D has long been known to help bones, muscles, and other parts of the body stay healthy. Of course, too much sun exposure also raises concerns about skin cancer and other health complications. However, emerging research now suggests that vitamin D from the sun may also help ward off cancer and infections.
Over time, the number of people suffering from breast cancer has increased, and some researchers believe it may have something to do with the lack of sunlight most people experience. People with higher blood levels of vitamin D have been shown to have a lower incidence of the disease.
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In the year 1970, there were about 68,000 new breast cancer cases in the U.S. By 2014, that number had risen by 242 percent, even though the U.S. population had only risen by 56.8 percent.
“Thus, the rate of increase in female breast cancer has been more than 4-fold the increase in the U.S. population during the same period,” scientists from St. Joseph’s Hospital in Kentucky wrote in The Linacre Quarterly journal.
This research only shows a correlation between vitamin D and breast cancer; it does not prove that vitamin D or time spent outdoors actually reduces the risk of breast cancer. However, until we do know the facts for sure, it’s probably not a bad idea to spend a little extra time in the sun whenever you can, especially if you spend most of your day confined to the office. The sun has so many great benefits for our bodies—just take care not to get burnt!