Each of the four seasons vary in their daily temperatures and weather patterns. The summer and autumn months, defined from June to November, have higher levels of calcidiol, an intermediate metabolite of vitamin D (see chemical structure to the bottom left), through ultraviolet exposure—a vitamin whose exposure is not as prevalent during the winter and spring seasons. The study, published in the journal, The Prostate, did not prove that vitamin D is the determining factor. However, study co-author Dr. Tomasz Beer, director of the prostate cancer program at the Oregon Health & Science University Cancer Institute, suggested that further research should be conducted on this possibility. Vitamin D has been shown to regulate cell differentiation and help sustain the immune system. Most importantly, this fat soluble vitamin is also known to slow down cancer growth. Alternate factors associated with vitamin D included age, food intake high in vitamin D, vacations in sunny southern areas, and the location of residency in Norway, were also examined to determine whether survivability was affected. Of all the variables examined, age is the risk factor that influences the chances of being diagnosed with prostate cancer because younger males readily produce more vitamin D than older males. As mentioned by the researchers “the capacity of skin to produce vitamin D when exposed to sunshine is about 40 percent lower in men 75 and older than in men 60 and younger” and therefore younger men had a slightly better rate of survival.
In this study, a relationship between the varying seasons and survival rates of prostate cancer has been proven to exist. Despite these findings, additional factors that could potentially affect the study include the type of treatments administered and the stage of the disease at the time of diagnosis. The older patients normally have a more advanced diagnosis of prostate cancer and are subjected to different treatments. This may have an overall effect on the survival rate. Furthermore, the skin color of these patients is another risk factor to consider in such a study. Dark-skinned people require more sun exposure to make vitamin D. This is due to the thickness of the skin layer called the stratum corneum, which alters the amount of absorbed ultraviolet radiation.
There are several factors to consider when conducting a study such as the one discussed in this post. The physical attributes, life style, environmental surroundings, and genetics are a few that need to be measured for a thorough research study. The discovery that certain seasons contribute to a better outcome in survival rates among men with prostate cancer seems promising for future treatments. However, since the study was conducted with Norwegian men, not all factors may be applicable to the general population of those who are diagnosed with prostate cancer. The importance of integrating vitamin D in our life style, especially prostate cancer patients, can help reduce the development of cancer. Researchers as early as 1936 were aware that skin cancer patients have reduced rates of other cancers when exposed to UV light even though excessive sun exposure may give rise to skin cancer. Prostate cancer patients and the general population need to be advised that moderation is the key in the intake of vitamin D and ultraviolet exposure as it is for other healthy lifestyle habits.