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Nutr Cancer. 2011;63(7):991-9. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2011.596641. Epub 2011 Jul 29.

Significant positive correlation between sunshine and lactase nonpersistence in Europe may implicate both in similarly altering risks for some diseases.

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  • 1Jewish General Hospital, Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


Decreasing latitude and increasing frequency of population lactase nonpersistence have been reported to diminish risks for several diseases, but the reason for overlap has not been explained. We evaluate, relationships between calculated national annual ultraviolet light B (UVB) exposure, latitude, and national lactose digestion frequencies. Annual UVB exposure and latitude were based on weighted averages from several cities in different countries. Lactase distribution status was based on published data that have been used previously to derive relations with diseases. We compare univariate regression analyses (r(2)(adj), slope) of percentage of lactase nonpersistence with UVB or latitude. We determine, differences between European and non-European sources by multiregression analysis of independent variables. Correlation between UVB and latitude is high (r(2) = 0.89), and between percentage of lactase nonpersistence and either latitude or UVB the correlation is moderately strong with r(2) = 0.51 and 0.46, respectively, with P ≤ 0.01 for both. A more detailed analysis shows that correlations between percentage of lactase nonpersistence and UVB are only significant in Europe, r(2) = 0.59, P < 0.001, whereas outside Europe: r(2) = 0.06, P = 0.16. These relationships raise hypothetical explanations to account for the observed overlap in similar risk modification by the 2 variables.

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