Does skin cancer protect against other diseases and death? New research published in the International Journal of Epidemiology says yes, maybe it does.
Sunlight is a known risk factor for skin cancer. However, sunlight also helps you make vitamin D, creating a strong possibility that sunlight protects against other diseases and illnesses. Furthermore, people that get high sun exposure often get more outdoor physical activity. Researchers are trying to discover if the benefits of sunlight outweigh the risks. If so, being diagnosed with skin cancer at some point in your life would possibly show a protective association against other diseases and illnesses.
In the present study, researchers examined the entire Danish population above the age of 40 through the years of 1980 and 2006. In total, their study included 4.4 million individuals.
The researchers looked at national registries to find any diagnoses of non-melanoma skin cancer, melanoma skin cancer, heart attack (myocardial infarction), hip fracture and deaths from any cause in this population. They wanted to know, did skin cancers correlate at all with heart attack, hip fracture and deaths from any cause?
They found that skin cancers may in fact protect against other diseases.
For people that were diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer, they had a 48% reduced risk of death from any cause compared to patients that weren’t diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer (HR=0.52, 0.52-0.53).
For people diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer, they had an 11% reduced risk of death from any cause compared to those who weren’t diagnosed with melanoma (HR=0.89, 0.87–0.91), a 21% reduced risk of heart attack (HR=0.79, 0.74–0.84), and a 16% reduced risk of hip fracture (HR=0.84, 0.76–0.93).
The researchers concluded, “In a nationwide study of 4.4 million individuals above age 40 years, having a diagnosis of skin cancer was associated with less myocardial infarction, less hip fracture in those below age 90 years and less death from any cause.”
The researchers call for more study to further examine this relationship.