Many Cancer Patients Lacking in Vitamin D

Vitamin D could impact cancer course and survival

(RxWiki News) Some 75 percent of cancer patients have too little vitamin D in their blood. In fact, the lowest levels of the vitamin may be linked with more advanced cancer.

The benefits of vitamin D, research has suggested, range from stronger bones and muscles, improved immune function and possible protection from both heart disease and cancer. Researchers are just now starting to look at how vitamin D might impact certain cancer features, such as the course of the disease and even the likelihood of recurrence.

"Take some vitamin D, it might help you fight cancer."

Thomas Churilla, lead author and a medical student at Commonwealth Medical College in Scranton, Pennsylvania, notes that researchers are just beginning to look at how vitamin D affects the development and spread of cancer as well as its potential return.

As part of his work, he and his colleagues examined the vitamin D levels of patients at an oncology center. The researchers theorized that levels of the vitamin might impact specific aspects of the disease.

The study included 160 patients evenly split between men and women. The most common cancer types were breast, prostate, lung, thyroid and colorectal cancers.

Of the study participants, 77 percent had deficient vitamin D levels of less than 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) of blood or had suboptimal levels, between 20-30 ng/ml. The median vitamin D level was 23.5 ng/ml. Patients with a blood level of vitamin D below the median were more likely to have advanced cancer.

Patients found to be deficient of vitamin D were given supplemental therapy, boosting their levels by an average of nearly 15 ng/ml. Researchers will go on to look at whether or not supplemental vitamin D had any effect on long-term treatment or survival.

Churilla notes that various levels of evidence support the theory that vitamin D plays a role in either the prevention of cancer or the outcome of a cancer diagnosis. "Further study is needed to continue to understand the relationship between vitamin D and cancer."

The study was presented at the recent annual meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology.

Research findings are considered preliminary before they are published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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Review Date: 
October 5, 2011