Tag Archives: sun exposure

Vitamin D May Prevent Uterine Fibroids

Women with adequate Vitamin D levels are 32% less likely to develop uterine fibroids, according to a new study published in Epidemiology journal this month (1).

Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths attached to the uterus, and they normally affect women of childbearing age. Many women with fibroids experience no symptoms at all. In others, fibroids can cause symptoms such as heavy periods, pelvic pain, frequent urination, difficulty emptying the bladder and backache. As a result of these debilitating symptoms, fibroids are one the most common reasons for women to undergo hysterectomy.

Fibroids occur in around 20% of women, but those of African descent have been shown to have a higher incidence of fibroid formation (50-80%). They are a significant concern for women because of the difficult symptoms linked to their growth. In addition, fibroids are a particular concern to women of childbearing age as they can have a negative effect on fertility. They can block the fallopian tubes, affect blood flow to the uterine cavity, change the shape of the uterus and prevent sperm from travelling through the cervix.

In the recent study, led by Donna Baird of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), researchers measured levels of Vitamin D

The Sun
Exposure to the sun for more than one hour can decrease risk of fibroids

in 1,036 women between the ages of 35-49. Circulating levels of Vitamin D, also known as 25-hydroxy D, were measured using blood samples. Women with more than 20 nanograms per millilitre were classed as having sufficient levels of the vitamin, although many specialists believe that the minimum level for sufficiency should be higher still.

Study participants also completed a questionnaire on sun exposure. Those who spent more than one hour outside per day had a decreased risk of fibroids, with an estimated reduction of 40 percent. It is interesting to note that fibroids are more common in black women, and that black women also tend to have lower levels of Vitamin D as skin pigmentation reduces the formation of Vitamin D in the skin (2).

Scientists are often quick to point out that “correlation does not imply causation”, meaning that a correlation between two factors does not mean that one causes the other. However in this case the researchers provide evidence of a causal relationship. The researchers noted that treatment of cultures of human uterine fibroid tissue with a form of Vitamin D resulted in decreased cell proliferation accompanied by inhibition of molecular pathways for fibrosis. In other words, Vitamin D was found to play active role in slowing the growth of fibroid tissue.

The study authors conclude that the link between Vitamin D and uterine fibroids warrants further investigation, and it is hoped that these findings will encourage further research in this area. In the meantime, it would be wise for those affected by fibroids to take measures to ensure their Vitamin D levels are sufficient.

References

1. Baird D et al (2013) Vitamin D and the Risk of Uterine Fibroids. Epidemiology. May 2013. 24:3, 447-453.

2. Harris S (2006) Vitamin D and African Americans. Am Soc Nutr. April 2006. 136:4, 1126-1129.

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Omega-3 supplements may prevent skin cancer

The many benefits of omega-3 supplementation, from heart health to anti-inflammatory effects in conditions such as arthritis, are well-known. A new study conducted by researchers at Manchester University has now investigated the potential of omega-3 to protect against skin cancer (1).

Skin cancer is a growing concern in the UK, where rates of malignant melanoma have increased significantly over the last 30 years. In fact, according to Cancer Research UK, incidence rates of this type of cancer have increased more rapidly than any other type of cancer (2). And it is not just a concern for the elderly. In the UK, more than 700 young people between the ages of 17 and 34 are diagnosed with skin cancer every year.

The study is the first of its kind to test the protective benefits of omega-3 on human volunteers. The volunteers were given either a 4g dose of omega-3 or a placebo supplement. They were then exposed to the equivalent of either 8, 15 or 30 minutes of summer midday sun through the use of a light machine.

Fish is the richest food source of omega 3, with mackeral, trout and herring being the strongest source
Fish is the richest food source of omega 3, with mackerel, trout and herring having the highest source of omega 3

This study measured the amount of damage to the immune system, or ‘immunosuppression’ caused by sunlight. Sun exposure and sunburn can actually suppress the immune system, and repeated exposure can cause long term damage to the immune system, making your body more susceptible to skin cancer. The results of this study showed that immunosuppression was 50% lower in those who took the supplement compared to those who were given a placebo.

The beneficial effects were noted in those who were exposed to 8 and 15 minutes of sun, but were not seen in those who underwent 30 minutes of exposure.

Professor Lesley Rhodes at the University’s Photobiology Unit, said this was the first time a study such as this has been carried out on humans. “This study adds to the evidence that omega-3 is a potential nutrient to protect against skin cancer. Although the changes we found when someone took the oil were small, they suggest that a continuous low level of chemoprevention from taking omega-3 could reduce the risk of skin cancer over an individual’s lifetime.”

Other nutritional lines of defence from the sun’s UV rays include antioxidants, which ‘mop up’ some of the oxidative damage caused by the sun. For example, previous research suggests that skin damage from the sun can be reduced by taking 2000mg of Vitamin C alongside 1000IU Vitamin E (3). Citrus fruits are the most obvious choice for those wanting to increase their Vitamin C intake, although green peppers, broccoli and green leafy vegetables are similarly beneficial. Garnishing your meals with chopped almonds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts or a drizzle of olive oil will also give Vitamin E levels a boost.

While omega-3 oils and antioxidants are no substitute for suncream, these studies suggests it may provide helpful support alongside our usual protective measures. Research into the nutrition’s protective benefits for the skin continues, and Professor Rhodes’ team are currently continuing their investigations with omega-3 at Salford Royal Hospital.

Reference

1. S. M. Pilkington et al. (2013) Randomized controlled trial of oral omega-3 PUFA in solar-simulated radiation-induced suppression of human cutaneous immune responses. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 97 (3): 646 DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.112.049494

2. ‘Skin Cancer Incidence Statistics’ Cancer Research UK http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/types/skin/incidence/uk-skin-cancer-incidence-statistics

3. Eberlain-Konig B et al (1998) Protective effect against sunburn of combined systemic ascorbic acid and d-alpha tocopherol. J Am Acad Dermatol 38:45-8

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