The incidence of cancer was exceptionally low among the Inuit and other Artic civilizations in older times, when they consumed traditional foods from the sea, especially whale blubber, which is very rich in vitamin D. However, their diet has changed dramatically in the last 50 years and their incidence of cancer, especially colorectal cancer, is now higher among the Inuit than in Whites living in the USA.
In fact, Dr. Sangita Sharma and colleagues of University of Alberta report that, “Cancer mortality rates in Alaska are significantly higher than those in mainland United States.”
Sharma S, Barr AB, Macdonald HM, Sheehy T, Novotny R, Corriveau A. Vitamin D deficiency and disease risk among aboriginal Arctic populations. Nutr Rev. 2011 Aug;69(8):468-78. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00406.x. Review.
Is it lack of vitamin D?
This group of scientists think so and make several interesting points, including the fact that the few traditionally living Inuit still have lower rates of cancer compared to their Westernized brethren. Likewise, they make similar cases for fractures, diabetes, and infectious disease, all much higher among Westernized Inuit.
Of course, the sun never gets very high in the sky in the Artic, even in the summer. However, the ozone hole, especially in the spring, allows more low hanging UVB than one would think to penetrate the atmosphere. Unfortunately, sunbathing is rare among the Inuit or the Alaskans.
Alaskans should take 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day, while children need 1,000 IU per every 25 pounds of body weight, rounded up.