Higher Vitamin D Levels Associated With Lower Risk Of Deadly Cancer

Higher vitamin D levels associated with lower risk of deadly cancer

Higher vitamin D levels associated with lower risk of deadly cancer

Tuesday, November 29, 2011. In an article appearing online on November 15, 2011 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, Brian M. Wolpin of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and his colleagues report an association between higher circulating levels of vitamin D and a lower risk of pancreatic cancer among participants in five large prospective studies.

The current study included 451 subjects diagnosed with pancreatic cancer matched with two to three cancer-free controls, selected from participants in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, the Nurses' Health Study, the Physicians' Health Study, the Women's Health Initiative-Observational Study and the Women's Health Study. Average follow-up periods ranged from 14.1 to 25.3 years. Stored plasma samples collected upon enrollment in the studies were analyzed for 25-hydroxyvitamin D.

Vitamin D levels averaged 61.3 nanomoles per liter among participants diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and 64.5 nanomoles per liter in the control subjects. A declining risk of the disease was observed in association with rising levels of vitamin D. When participants whose vitamin D level was among the top one-fifth of subjects were compared with those in the lowest fifth, a 33 percent reduction in pancreatic cancer risk was observed. Adjustment for age and separate analysis of subgroups, including Caucasians, men, and women, resulted in a similar association.

When the risk of cancer of the pancreas was analyzed according to sufficient or insufficient vitamin D status, compared to those with insufficiency (defined as less than 50 nanomoles per liter) there was a 29 percent lower risk determined for those with sufficient levels of 75 nanomoles per liter or higher. In contrast with findings suggested by an earlier study, no increased risk was observed among men and women whose vitamin D levels were 100 nanomoles per liter or greater.

"Vitamin D and its analogues can slow proliferation of pancreatic cancer cells both in cell culture and in xenograft mouse models," the authors write. "Clinical studies are underway to exploit these effects of vitamin D and its analogues in patients with pancreatic cancer."

"In light of the high prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency in the population, further studies should examine whether increasing vitamin D levels impacts the incidence of this highly lethal malignancy," they conclude.

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Vitamin D essential to combat TB

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In an article published online on October 12, 2011 in Science Translational Medicine Dr Robert Modlin and his colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles report an essential role for vitamin D in the body's ability to fight tuberculosis (TB).

The rate of infection for tuberculosis is highest in certain areas of Africa–a fact that may be due to a reduced ability to manufacture vitamin D among individuals with darker skin. In previous research conducted by the team, the vitamin was found to be involved in the production of cathelicidin, which aids the innate immune system's response to tuberculosis infection. In the current study, Dr Modlin and his colleagues discovered that it is necessary to have a sufficient amount of vitamin D in the body in order for white blood cells known as T-cells to release interferon-gamma, which directs infected immune cells to attack the tuberculosis bacteria. When the team subsequently tested the immune responses of blood samples obtained from humans with and without sufficient vitamin D levels, serum from those with vitamin D insufficiency failed to stimulate an immune response; however, the response was restored upon the addition of vitamin D.

"The role of interferon has been speculated for years in numerous studies, but previous research didn't take into account that sufficient vitamin D was needed to help interferon-gamma trigger an effective immune response," stated study coauthor Dr John Adams. "Now we understand better how this chain reaction works."

"Over the centuries, vitamin D has intrinsically been used to treat tuberculosis," noted first author Mario Fabri. "Sanatoriums dedicated to tuberculosis patients were traditionally placed in sunny locations that seemed to help patients -- but no one knew why this worked."

"Our findings suggest that increasing vitamin D levels through supplementation may improve the immune response to infections such as tuberculosis," he concluded.

Life Extension Magazine® December, 2011 Now Available in Electronic Format!

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