Vitamin D may help protect against endometrial cancer in obese women
Findings from a study of mice published online on September 21, 2010 in the journal Cancer Prevention Research suggest the possibility of a protective benefit for supplemental vitamin D against the development of endometrial cancer in obese women. Obesity has been associated with double the risk of endometrial cancer compared to that experienced by normal weight women, and the condition also significantly amplifies the risk of the cancer's recurrence. While a recent study failed to determine a protective association for vitamin D against endometrial cancer, the research did not examine the vitamin's effect in the obese population.
Professor of Oncology Leena Hilakivi-Clarke, PhD of Georgetown University's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and her colleagues at the National Cancer Institute, Northwestern University, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, and Walter Reed Hospital tested the effects of vitamin D3 supplementation on normal mice and mice bred to lack one of two PTEN tumor suppressor genes. Loss of this gene in humans has been associated with the development of endometrial cancer. The animals were provided with a control diet, a diet containing 25,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D3 per kilogram of diet, a high fat obesity-inducing diet, or a high fat diet plus vitamin D3.
After 28 weeks, in mice lacking a PTEN gene that received the high fat diet there was a significantly greater incidence of endometrial hyperplasia with atypia and malignant lesions compared with those that received the control diet. While vitamin D did not prevent nonobese animals that received a control diet from developing endometrial cancer, the disease affected only 25 percent of PTEN-deficient obese mice that received the vitamin, compared to 67 percent of obese mice that did not receive vitamin D.
"Vitamin D has been shown to be helpful in a number of cancers, but for endometrial cancer, our study suggests it protects only against cancer that develops due to obesity," Dr Hilakivi-Clarke commented. "Still, if these results are confirmed in women, use of vitamin D may be a wonderfully simple way to reduce endometrial cancer risk."
"Since over 50% of women in the US are overweight or obese, and losing weight is difficult, other means are needed to prevent endometrial cancer in these women," she continued. "One way is to use progesterone, but it increases breast cancer risk. Vitamin D supplements are likely to be safer than, for example, progesterone."
"In the obese mice, vitamin D offered a very strong, very significant protective effect," Dr Hilakivi-Clarke noted. She further revealed that the obese vitamin D-treated animals produced less of a substance called osteopontin which encourages cancer aggression, and a greater amount of E-cadherin, which has an antimetastatic effect, compared to untreated obese animals.
"Until further studies are done, I think the best advice for women concerned about their risk is to take vitamin D supplements or spend a few more minutes each week in the sun," she recommended. "This vitamin has shown many health benefits in addition to the promise suggested by our mouse study."
Cancer of the uterus is the most common cancer of the female reproductive tract, with an annual rate of 21 per 100,000 women (Greenlee RT et al 2001). The majority of uterine (endometrial) cancer cases occur around or after menopause between the ages of 60 and 75 years. In the United States, 2 percent to 3 percent of women will develop cancer of the uterus during their lifetimes (McCann SE et al 2000).
The primary symptom of uterine cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding. Obesity and a diet high in animal fats and low in fruits and vegetables are associated with the development of uterine cancer (Hu FB 2003; Schapira DV 1992). The relationship between unopposed estrogen exposure and uterine cancer is well established (Berstein L et al 2002; Doherty JA et al 2005; Persson I et al 1989). The incidence of uterine cancer has increased in the past 50 years because of longer female life expectancy and an increase in the use of unopposed estrogen therapy. However, enhanced methods of diagnosis have improved detection rates (Emons G et al 2004).
Women who have uterine cancer should consult their physician before taking any nutritional supplements, especially if they are receiving conventional medical treatment. The Life Extension Foundation suggests:
Apple pectin—2.8 grams (g) daily, with water
Calcium—1000 to 1500 milligrams (mg) daily
Essential fatty acids—4.8 g of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 2.4 g of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) daily
Ground flaxseed—3 tablespoons (25 to 40 g) daily, with water
Garlic—1200 mg daily
Melatonin—6 to 20 mg, 1 to 2 hours before sleeping (nighttime)
Siberian ginseng—200 to 1000 mg daily
Vitamin A—25,000 IU daily
Vitamin C—2.5 to 5 g daily
Multivitamin/multimineral supplement (without copper) containing 20 mg of beta-carotene, 15 mg of lycopene, and 200 mcg of selenium daily.
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