Life Extension Update
December 16, 2006
Lower vitamin D levels may help explain higher cancer incidence among African-Americans
The December, 2006 issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention published a report by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health which suggests that the reduced levels of vitamin D that often occur among African-Americans could be responsible in part for their greater incidence of cancer and mortality from the disease.
The researchers utilized data from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, an ongoing study of heart disease and cancer among male dentists, osteopathic physicians, pharmacists, veterinarians, optometrists and podiatrists. The current study compared 481 black men and 43,468 white men who were aged 40 to 75 years upon enrollment.
Ninety-nine black and 7,019 white men were diagnosed with cancer between 1986 and January, 2002. Black subjects experienced a 32 percent greater risk of cancer and an 89 percent greater risk of dying from the disease than white participants. The risk of dying of a digestive system cancer (oral, esophageal, stomach, pancreas or colorectal cancer, which have been linked with reduced vitamin D levels) was more than double in black participants. When black subjects who had none or only one of the risk factors for vitamin D deficiency (including low vitamin D intake) were compared to a similar group of white subjects, they were not found to have a greater risk of cancer or a much greater risk of dying from the disease, however black subjects with additional risk factors for hypovitaminosis D had a significantly higher risk of cancer incidence and mortality, particularly for digestive system cancers.
Black participants did not experience a higher rate of noncancer mortality than white subjects in this study. The researchers stated that they did not find strong enough differences among dietary and lifestyle factors other than vitamin D to explain the differences in cancer incidence and mortality observed. “In a group of Black male health professionals characterized by high socioeconomic status, high degree of medical knowledge, high use of screening tests, and adherence to a healthful lifestyle and dietary practice comparable with their White counterparts, a marked difference in cancer incidence and especially mortality was found. We identified only vitamin D deficiency as a potential relevant factor,” the authors write. Although the study’s results do not prove that vitamin D is the cause of higher cancer rates experienced by African-Americans, further research may produce more evidence of a causative relationship.
Pancreatic cancer is a rapidly progressive disease with generally poor survival time. The goal of therapy is to strengthen pancreatic function, impede cancer growth and spread, and reduce the severity of symptoms. Various nutritional supplements outlined in this chapter have been shown to help pancreatic cancer patients by slowing disease progression or increasing quality of life.
Maintain a diet suitable for diabetics that restricts simple carbohydrates such as sugar and emphasizes complex carbohydrates (fibers) and proteins (refer to the Diabetes protocol). Protein supplements such as soy and essential fatty acids such as borage and fish oils will help by altering the dietary intake ratio of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
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