Many of us have heard for a long time that vitamin D is good for our bone health, but over the last 15 years scientists have broadened their research into D and have discovered a strong connection with cancer risk.
Some of the most promising research to date is in relation to breast cancer. Researchers at the University of Albany believe vitamin D can kill human breast cancer cells. In a bold study, a research team took human breast cancer cells and treated them with a strong form of vitamin D. They reported that within a few days the cancer cells died.
The same process was conducted on mice and the results were more dramatic; some tumors completely disappeared.
In Canada there has been a lot of discussion about vitamin D and its effect on cancer development. After reviewing several studies The Canadian Cancer Society suggested if people want to lower their cancer risk they should take 1,000 international units of vitamin D daily.
One of the studies the Cancer Society looked at was carried out at the Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha. A group of 1, 200 post-menopausal women who took both calcium and vitamin D had a 60 per cent lower risk of breast, colon and lung cancer over a four year follow-up period. According to the study results, the higher level of vitamin D, the lower people’s cancer risk was. While the cancer risk findings are encouraging, doctors’ caution that the follow-up was only four years; that larger studies need to be conducted looking at vitamin D and its impact on cancer cells.
Getting Vitamin D
Vitamin D comes from certain foods we eat. Examples include eggs, fortified milk, and oily fish. Sunlight is also a source of vitamin D. While too much can lead to cancer development, such as melanoma, the right amount is said to help reduce cancer risk. A total of thirty minutes of sun twice per week; generally between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. is what scientists suggest. Despite this recommendation there are those who want to avoid ultraviolet rays; they fear the development of skin cancer. There are also those who find it difficult to get the right amount of vitamin D through their diet. For these people vitamin supplements are a good option.
Professors at McGill University in Montreal have taken a close look at cancer development and vitamin D studies. Some of them suggest it is time to look at the idea of adding vitamin D to other foods like bread and flour.
In recent years, vitamin D has been linked to reduced prostate cancer risk. McGill University has also looked at prostate cancer development and the role that the vitamin might play in preventing the disease. Some of the research at the Montreal based university indicates that prostate cancer cells are more prevalent in men who live in northern climates. The theory is that that these men have less exposure to sunlight. Researchers at McGill also say their research shows African-Americans whose skin filters out ultraviolet rays, are more prone to prostate cancer.
The benefits of vitamin D for anything other than bone health have been controversial in the past, but evidence is growing to suggest that it plays a role in effecting cancer cells and cancer development. Right now scientists are trying to figure out how vitamin D may impact certain aspects of cancer, such as the stage or extent of tumor spread, relapse of the disease, and sub-types of cancer. At this point though, the scientific community sees the research to date as exciting.