Vitamin D for Cancer Therapy?

It's well known that nutrition plays a vital role in prolonging the life of cancer patients, as a strong immune system fueled by good nutrition helps keep your body strong and better able to tolerate treatment.

Probing the role nutrition plays in cancer further, researchers at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Iowa have found that patients with one type of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma—diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL)—could be helped by taking Vitamin D. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a cancer of the white blood cells and DLBCL is the most common type. The fast-growing cancer usually occurs in adults.

The results of the study were based on a review of 374 patients who were newly diagnosed with DLBCL. Researchers looked at blood test results, which showed that half the group had a vitamin D deficiency. Those with deficient vitamin D levels were 1.5 times more likely to have the cancer progress, and had a twofold increase in the risk for dying.

More research needs to be done but this study helps boost the idea that vitamin D could play an important role in cancer treatment. Numerous studies have shown that Vitamin D may suppress the proliferation of cells (cancer arises from abnormal cell proliferation), prevent blood vessels from forming in a tumor (and thus keep nutrients from helping the tumor grow), and stop cancer cells from spreading (preventing the spread of cancer cells to healthy organs).

Sources of Vitamin D

Unfortunately not many foods contain Vitamin D, a steroid hormone obtained from sunlight and converted by the skin into its active form. It's best known for helping increase the flow of calcium in our blood, playing a role in preventing bone loss.

Some of its most common sources—milk, cereal, and certain brands of orange juice—are fortified with it but most of us get Vitamin D from the sun. This can present an issue for those who live in areas of the country that do not get much sunlight, though Vitamin D is readily available in supplement form.

Researchers are now looking at how many people suffer from Vitamin D deficiency and whether low levels of the vitamin indicate poor health in general.


National Institutes of Health

Indiana Journal of Pharmacology

Science Daily