Exposure to sunlight and UV is generally considered to be a risk factor for most forms of cancer, especially skin cancer. However a new study by Australian scientists shows that this general assumption is in fact unfounded.

The successful treatment and cure of esophageal cancer depends on several factors. These include the type of cancer, its stage of development and the age and general health of the patient. Esophageal cancer is often detected at a late stage of advancement, after it has already spread to the lymph nodes or attacked other organs. Once it has reached the advanced stage, the patient's chances of recovery are a mere 20% and life expectancy is on average 5 years.

Scientists at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane, Australia, led by Dr. Bich Tran, realised that very little research has been done into the link between esophageal cancer and UV rays in sunlight. In their study, they investigated the connection between moles, freckles and environmental exposure to sunlight and UV over a lifetime to the risk of contracting esophageal cancer.

For the purposes of the study, the researchers compared the estimated lifelong UV dose of almost 1,000 esophageal cancer sufferers with a control group of 1,500 persons. They discovered an inverse relationship between the amount of sunlight/UV exposure a person receives during their lifetime in the area where they live and the risk of contracting esophageal cancer. It is also interesting to note that the study was carried out in Australia. This is a country where increased UV exposure as a result of the hole in the ozone layer is considered extremely dangerous for human health.

However the study shows that the bad reputation of UV light - whether from natural sunlight or sunbeds - is often unjustified. "UV exposure from sunlight and sunbeds has many positive effects on human health. We recommend moderate exposure, as this is proven to increase vitamin D levels", Ad Brand of the Sunlight Research Forum (SRF) explains.

The Sunlight Research Forum (SRF) is a non-profit organisation based in the Netherlands. Its aim is to make the latest medical and scientific evidence on the effects of moderate exposure to UV radiation available to the general public.