APR 05, 2017 02:14 PM PDT

Vitamin D May Lower Cancer Risks


A recent research adds compelling reason for getting your daily fix of vitamin D. In addition to building bone strength, this supplement may also decrease cancer risks in older women.

Vitamin D, known chemically as 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D), is best known for its role in increasing bone strength due to its ability to increase absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate, and zinc. Interestingly, sunlight is a critical component in the synthesis of the vitamin D compound. In fact, one form of treatment for rickets – a deficiency of vitamin D, is increased exposure to sunlight.

But the compound may also have a role in fighting cancer, say scientists from the Creighton University in Nebraska.

The study was a four-year trial that assessed the effects of vitamin D3 and calcium versus placebo alone. Participants included over 2,300 postmenopausal women over 55 years old. The women were randomized to receive either vitamin D3 (2000 IU) and calcium (1500 mg) or placebos daily for 4 years.

The team found that women who took the vitamin D and calcium had a 30 percent decrease in risk for cancer. Moreover, in women who did develop cancer, their blood levels showed significantly lower levels of vitamin D.

"This study suggests that higher levels of 25(OH)D in the blood are associated with lower cancer risk," said Joan Lappe, the study’s senior author. "The study provides evidence that higher concentrations of 25(OH)D in the blood, in the context of vitamin D3 and calcium supplementation, decrease risk of cancer" she said.

“These results contribute to a growing body of scientific findings, including results of a similar randomized controlled clinical trial preceding this one in Nebraska women, that indicate that vitamin D is a critical tool in fighting cancer" she said. "It is also of value in preventing other diseases, according to previous research.”

The authors hypothesize that vitamin D may help regulate normal cell functions. "Without adequate vitamin D, normally functioning cells can convert to malignant cells." Lappe said.

It’s worth noting that the vitamin D dose given to the women was about three times higher than the US government's Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for women above 55. This suggests that a significant increase in vitamin D would be necessary to see any anticancer effects. Further research will be necessary to validate these findings.

"While people can make their own vitamin D3 when they are in the sun near mid-day, sunscreen blocks most vitamin D production. Also, due to more time spent indoors, many individuals are lacking adequate levels of vitamin D compounds in their blood," Lappe explained. "The results of this study lend credence to a call for more attention to the importance of vitamin D in human health and specifically in preventing cancer.”

Additional source: Creighton University

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
JUL 26, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
JUL 26, 2018
When a Cancer Gene Switches Sides
All cells carry a gene named p53, which has a vital role in shielding the body from cancer. But it can betray cells too....
OCT 04, 2018
OCT 04, 2018
Zebrafish as Metastatic Cancer Model
Another Koch Institute Image Award winner from 2018 is presented in this video from MIT....
OCT 08, 2018
OCT 08, 2018
Natural Killer Cells to Aid in Cancer Therapy
Researchers utilize nanoparticles to stimulate NK cells that induce tumor cells to express PDL1, a protein involved in immune response messaging...
NOV 20, 2018
NOV 20, 2018
Mutations Mutations Which Ones Do We Want?
A team at UCSF makes use of new SLICE tool to generate mutations that reveal specific genetic functions....
NOV 26, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
NOV 26, 2018
New Insight Into the Machinery That Drives Cell Death
When cells are worn out and damaged or diseased, they can initiate a self-destruct sequence called apoptosis....
DEC 05, 2018
DEC 05, 2018
Zika virus as a weapon against brain cancer
Glioblastoma is the most aggressive type of Brain Cancer with an average survival rate of less than two years with treatment. So what if there could be a cure for this type of cancer....
Loading Comments...