Renal cancerExposure to sunlight

  • Greater exposure to sunlight is associated with lower incidence of renal cancer.
  • This association is also seen when latitude is used as an index of exposure to sunlight and vitamin D.

Most of the studies relating to sunlight exposure and risk of kidney cancer are ecological studies conducted in the U.S.1 2 3

The two studies by Grant were based on the Atlas of Cancer Mortality Rates in the United States4. Kidney cancer mortality rates are highest in the northeast and the upper Midwest and lowest in the southeast and southwest. The elevated rates in the upper Midwest are very likely related to widespread herbicide use5

There are also two multi-country ecological studies3 6. The geographical variation of July solar UVB dose was used in the U.S. This index is highly asymmetrical7, being high in the southwest and low in the northeast due to variations in surface elevation and stratospheric ozone layer.  In Europe, latitude was used as the index of vitamin D3.

In the global multi-country study, calculated solar UVB doses and cloud cover were used for the vitamin D index. Indices for other risk modifying factors, such as smoking, alcohol consumption were also used in the United States and dietary factors were added to the multi-country studies in order to rule out well-known cancer risk factors that might affect the geographical variation and interpretation of the results. In all of these studies, significant inverse correlations between the vitamin D indices and kidney cancer incidence and/or mortality rate were found.

There has been one reported case-control study of occupational UV and kidney cancer incidence reported. A significant reduction (24%-38%) in the risk of kidney cancer was observed with increasing occupational UV exposure among men who participated in the study. No association between UV exposure and kidney cancer risk was observed among women who participated. When the analyses were stratified by latitude as another estimate of sunlight intensity, a stronger reduction (71%-73%) in the risk of RCC was observed between UV exposure and cancer risk among men who resided at the highest latitudes8.

Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is often an index of high personal solar UVB irradiance. Thus, it can be used as a long-term vitamin D index in sunnier countries, where people tend to expose sufficient skin to produce a reasonable amount of vitamin D.  A study in England found a significant inverse correlation between incidence of NMSC and incidence of kidney cancer among male outdoor workers9.

A cancer registry study using data from Australia, Singapore and Spain found statistically insignificant reduced incidence of kidney cancer after incidence of basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma10. The same result was also found in an ecological study of cancer mortality rates with respect to NMCS mortality rates11

Page last edited: 01 July 2011


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