Only heart attacks and lung cancer kill more men than cancer of the prostate, which every year claims more than fifty thousand lives in the United States alone. Prostate cancer kills one in four men who get this disease, making it one of the most deadly forms of cancer. About forty thousand American men die every year from prostate cancer – more than ten times as many as are killed by melanomas.
Cancer of the prostate is especially feared by men because surgical treatment for this form of cancer frequently results in impotence. A study in the August 2001 issue of the Lancet proves that the risk of developing prostate cancer is directly related to sunlight exposure. The study divided people into four groups according to how much sunlight they had been exposed to. The lowest quarter, or quartile, of the study participants were three times more likely to develop prostate cancer than those in the highest quartile of sun exposure. The results show that those in the highest quartile reduced their risk of developing prostate cancer by 66 percent. Those in the second and third quartiles also had a significantly lower chance of getting prostate cancer compared with those in the lowest quartile, who received the least sun exposure. Another study took a long look, over almost two years, at men with prostate cancer who received 2,000 IU of vitamin D a day and found that overall the men had a 50 percent reduction in the rise of their levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA), which is an indicator of prostate cancer activity.
Only about six hundred men die prematurely each year from nonmelanoma skin cancer, but thirty-seven thousand men die prematurely each year from prostate cancer. It’s possible to conclude that fifty-five men die prematurely from underexposure to sunlight for everyone who dies prematurely due to overexposure. Even when you include melanoma – for which excessive sunshine is only one of several risk factors – the numbers are still lopsided: about ten to one.