Men exposed to high levels of sunlight on the job are less likely to develop kidney cancer compared with those exposed to very little or no sunlight, according to a study published in the journal Cancer, HealthDay News reported.

Previous research findings link the benefit to vitamin D, which is obtained through sun exposure and may prevent certain cancers.

According to press materials from the American Cancer Society, researchers interviewed 2,573 male and female participants about their work history and other demographic information. Of that group, 1,097 were kidney cancer patients.

Scientists found that men with the highest work-related sun exposure were 24 to 38 percent less likely to develop kidney cancer. In female participants, researchers found no link between sunlight exposure and kidney cancer risk.

The reason for the difference between men and women is a mystery, said researcher Sara Karami, PhD, of the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Maryland. But possible explanations for women’s decreased kidney cancer risk include gender-based hormonal differences in how men and women’s bodies respond to sunlight. In addition, women are more likely than men to use sunscreen and men are more likely to work shirtless.

In general, scientists concluded that the findings showed a link between sunlight exposure and kidney cancer risk.

But researchers also said they need to do more research among other population groups for more definitive results.

In addition, they proposed conducting additional studies about the effect of long-term ultraviolet exposure and vitamin D intake on cancer risk.

Learn more about kidney disease here.