A study showed that high levels of sun exposure lowered the risk of advanced breast cancer in light-skinned women by 47% compared to light-skinned women who got less sun exposure. Exposure to high levels of sunlight didn't have the same benefit for women with darker skin.
When your body is exposed to sunlight, it produces vitamin D. Light-skinned people produce more vitamin D when they get sun compared to people with darker skin. Vitamin D appears to be the link between sunlight and reduced risk.
Along with calcium, vitamin D is especially important for bone health. Many research studies also have shown a link between healthy levels of vitamin D and calcium and reduced breast cancer risk. A healthy diet is one of the best ways to give your body the vitamin D and calcium it needs. But if you think you're not getting enough of these important nutrients, you can also take a supplement. Talk to your doctor about a supplement that's right for you. A little bit of regular sun exposure also can help you get enough vitamin D.
At the same time, it's important to remember that excessive sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer. Only a little sunlight is necessary to help your body use both calcium and vitamin D. Getting 10 minutes of sun on your face and hands each day gives you the benefits of sunlight without the risks. If you're going to be outside longer, make sure you use sunscreen and reapply it regularly.
Stay tuned to breastcancer.org for the latest news on steps you can take to make sure your risk is a low as it can be.