Vitamin D deficiency, caused by low sunlight exposure, may cause leukemia, according to a study published in the journal PLOS One.
Researchers are not sure what exactly causes the deadly blood cancer, but several previous studies have shown that vitamin D metabolites in the blood, called 25-hydroxyvitamin D, interact with acute myeloid leukemia cells, according to a release about the new research on medicalnewstoday.com. Previous research has also suggested that cancer patients with higher vitamin D levels when diagnosed have better survival rates and remain in remission longer than patients who are vitamin D deficient.
Study co-author Cedric Garland, adjunct professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California-San Diego, and his colleagues designed their study to determine whether low UVB exposure and low vitamin D levels are associated with leukemia risk.
Analyzing data from the International Agency for Cancer Research’s Global Cancer 2012, they found that people living in countries farther away from the equator were at least twice as likely to have leukemia as people living closer to the equator. People living farther from the equator receive less UVB radiation from the sun, which spurs the body’s production of vitamin D.
"Importantly, these results suggest that increased levels of UVB irradiance and vitamin D may help prevent development of leukemia," wrote the study’s authors.