Vitamin D And Cancer


Learn About Vitamin D and CancerBy: Rachel Pappas, Breast Cancer Survivor, Founder of www.1UpOnCancer.com and the Author of Hopping Roller Coasters.

If your Vitamin D level is at least 30 ng/ml at the time of your cancer diagnosis, you double your chance for long-term survival, according to a Canadian study, and other studies have similar findings.

But even if your blood level was lower, or you don’t know what it was when you first learned you had this illness, ensuring optimal Vitamin D moving forward will only help you;  it’s been shown to promote cancer cell death.

“If you have cancer, your Vitamin D should be at least 30 ng/ml, but I recommend no less than 60 to increase your chance for long-term survival,” said Cedric Garland, PhD, a professor at the University of  California School of Medicine, San Diego, and the first researcher to link Vitamin D and cancer. His studies date back to 1980.

Know that most of us are deficient unless we take Vitamin D supplements, so here are measures to take to ensure that your Vitamin D blood levels are where they should be …

How much Vitamin D should I take, and in what form?

Most people with cancer should take roughly 4,000 units daily for a healthy Vitamin D status, though this could vary, according to Cedric. He also emphasizes that if you get a prescription, to be sure it is NOT Vitamin D2, but Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).

“People should take only Vitamin D3 because we know that Vitamin D2 is a poor alternative. Experiments in animals and tissue cultures have found D2 is half to a third as effective in inhibiting cancer cell growth,” he said.

Which cancers does Vitamin D work against … and how?

Vitamin D has been shown to fight and help prevent cancer of the epithelial cells (these cells line organs), which includes over 90 percent of malignancies. The way it works, explained at the most basic level, is Vitamin D makes epithelial cells stick together.

“This is important because when these cells don’t stick together they are free agents and compete. When they compete, the ones reproducing the fastest take over. Cancer cells grow faster than healthy ones, so they dominate,” said Cedric. His research shows that epithelial cells have Vitamin D receptors, making them sensitive to this anti-cancer nutrient.

How often and when should I be tested?

Cedric recommends getting your Vitamin D tested every March, as your levels will likely be lower during and just after winter, since the sun is our greatest source of Vitamin D3, other than supplements. Ideally you should be checked again six months later.

Vitamin D during chemo

Some cancer researchers believe Vitamin D can work with chemo to improve the drug’s effectiveness.

“This vitamin enhances early cell death of cancer cells. And it helps prevent formation of arterioles and capillaries that feed tumors, so while we need more studies, I believe it enhances chemo,” said Cedric.

Two precautions

Know that pharmaceutical Vitamin D is often D2, so if you get a prescription ask your doctor for Vitamin D3. Or you can buy D3 over the counter and are likely to get a quality product at a health food store.

A second precaution: Do not assume if a blood test shows you have adequate Vitamin D that you do, at least not if you have been taking Vitamin D2. “The blood test just measures 25-hydroxy vitamin D, not specifically Vitamin D3, which is the good stuff,” said Cedric.

Vitamin D before cancer

Most people have cells en route to cancer, so everyone should pay attention to Vitamin D for risk reduction. The research showing its role in prevention is powerful.

“When Vitamin D blood levels are at 80 ng/ml, 80% of breast adenocarcinoma (cancer of the epithelium) can be eliminated. That figure is based on an extrapolation from several breast cancer studies,” said Cedric. It is equally effective at reducing colon cancer risk at 40-60 ng/ml and, again, we have seen that it works against other epithelial cell cancers.

Is there enough proof of Vitamin D’s cancer-fighting ability?

A majority of the studies are observational rather than randomized clinical trials. With randomized trials, one group would get Vitamin D and another would receive another agent or placebo; then the two groups would be compared.

But significantly lower cancer rates and better outcomes after diagnosis have been shown in studies many times over, simply by looking at patients’ Vitamin D levels and following them carefully.

“Scientists have measured Vitamin D at baseline and followed patients for 7-12 years. Those with at least 30 ng/ml had approximately 50-60%  the death rate,” said Cedric.

“We have enough solid evidence from observational studies, and from many of them; Vitamin D is very effective against cancer.  But always discuss Vitamin D with your physician. Aim for a consensus that includes your doctor,” said Cedric.

Links to studies on Vitamin D:

 What is the Dose Response Relationship Between Vitamin D and Cancer Risk?

Vitamin D Inhibits Genetic Behavior That Promotes Some Aggressive Breast Cancers

Prognostic Effects of Vitamin D in Early Breast Cancer

Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and colon cancer: eight-year prospective study

Vitamin D and Colorectal Cancer

Founder of  1UpOnCancer.ComRachel Pappas is breast cancer survivor. She is the founder of www.1UpOnCancer.com. And the author of Hopping Roller Coasters, which tells the story of her and her daughter, both diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
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