High vitamin D level multiplies survival chances of cancer patients
The more vitamin D3 there is in cancer patients' blood, the greater their chance of surviving the disease. Norwegian researchers discovered this when they analysed data on 658 cancer patients.
Vitamin D & cancer
Many, but not all, studies show that high levels of vitamin D protect against cancer. One theory is that vitamin D keeps cancer cells together in epithelial tissues, so reducing the chance that cancer cells break out of the epithelial tissues and travel around the body.
Another theory is that a high level of vitamin D activates the immune system and thus increases the chance that immune cells destroy cancer cells before they become dangerous.
The Norwegian study, which researchers at the Institute of Population-based Cancer Research published in 2012 in Cancer Causes & Control, looked at people with breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer and lymphoma. All patients had blood samples taken within 90 days of their diagnosis.
The researchers measured the concentration of vitamin D3 in the blood, and on the basis of this divided the patients into four equal groups. These groups are called quartiles.
The table below shows that the quartile with the highest vitamin D level had three times less chance of dying than the quartile with the lowest vitamin D level.
The same data is reproduced below, but split up into the different types of cancer. For all types of cancer vitamin D3 improves the patient's prospects.
The figure above shows the survival curves for patients with breast cancer and colon cancer. Click on the graph to see the curves for lung cancer and lymphoma.
Of the colon cancer patients, 35 percent of the patients in the lowest quartile were still alive after 3300 days but 65 percent of the patients in the highest quartile were still alive after 3300 days.
"These findings add to a growing body of literature, indicating that serum levels of vitamin D2 are positively associated with cancer survival", the Norwegians conclude. "Intervention studies of vitamin D administration among cancer patients will be required to determine whether these observations are causal."
Cancer Causes Control. 2012 Feb;23(2):363-70.
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