The Sun’s Role in Causing Cancer

Michelle Haessler M.D.and Kacie Van Colen, co-founders at The Ola Kino Company, LLC.

Approximately one out of every three women and one out of every two men will develop cancer in their lifetime. In Florida, skin cancer is more prevalent because we enjoy going to the beach, being in the sunshine and even tanning. There are some genetic components to skin cancers and susceptibility. We have all read that fair-skinned, light-haired people are more prone to the common, non-melanomatous skin cancers, and that is basically true. They also burn much more readily. That is the real key. It is the sunburn, not the sun exposure, which causes these common skin cancers. In fact, sunlight is very important for our health, and several studies have shown that sunlight may actually decrease the chances of certain skin cancers, provided the person does not sunburn.


A randomized trial of nicotinamide used to prevent skin cancers published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2015 proved that by taking the nicotinamide twice a day, the overall  incidence of skin cancers was reduced by 23 percent in one year. Squamous cell carcinomas of the skin, the deadlier of the two most common skin cancers, was reduced by 30 percent during the same period of time, and basal cell carcinomas were reduced by 20 percent. This demonstrated that a daily supplement could dramatically reduce the skin cancer rate.


Avoiding the sun however, does pose its own problems. There have been numerous studies looking at the incidence of cancer and the distance from the equator. It is well known that the farther a person lives from the equator, the less sun exposure they get. Because vitamin D is not manufactured in the body, but can be produced with exposure to the sun, this is the primary source for humans to get their vitamin D. Many studies have linked levels of vitamin D to the incidence of cancer.


The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-6 found that the average vitamin D deficiency in the U.S. was 41.6 percent. Ethnic groups fared much worse—82.2 percent of African Americans and 69.2 percent of Hispanics were deficient in vitamin D. Clearly, Americans need to increase their levels of vitamin D.


Michelle Haessler M.D., a board-certified radiation oncologist with more than 25 years experience with treating cancer patients, is located in central Florida. For more information, visit

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