Friday, February 12, 2010

Breast Cancer is Seasonal

Breast cancer is most often diagnosed in spring and fall, especially in areas the farthest from the equator, according to a study of 2,921,714 breast cancer cases across 64 global regions and published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment (February, 2010).

Researchers write:

These data make it clear that human breast cancer discovery occurs non-randomly throughout each year with peaks near both equinoxes and valleys near both solstices. This stable global breast cancer seasonality has implications for better prevention, more accurate screening, earlier diagnosis, and more effective treatment. This complex latitude-dependent breast cancer seasonality is clearly related to predictable local day/night length changes which occur seasonally. Its mechanism may depend upon seasonal sunlight mediation of vitamin D and seasonal mediation of nocturnal melatonin peak level and duration.


Unknown said...

I have a hard time buying this one. Could it simply be that women are less likely to schedule mamograms in the winter when it's cold or in the summer when they are on vacation? Of course, vitamin D does seem to play big role.

Patricia Prijatel said...

Sherri: As you say, previous studies have shown the influence of vitamin D especially in northern latitudes, so this is consistent with other research. But it shows a correlation, not a cause. This happens, but the researchers don't have the data to explain why or how. There are any number of reasons for why this might be--including the convenience issue you suggest. Pat