LONDON – New research shows higher levels of vitamin D may help improve survival for both bowel and skin cancer patients*.
The results of two studies published in the British Journal of Cancer and Journal of Clinical Oncology found people with higher levels of vitamin D – at the time they were diagnosed – were more likely to survive.
In the first study researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston followed 1017 bowel cancer patients for around nine years.
Using information about UV-B and sunlight exposure, skin type, body-mass index, and vitamin D intake from food and supplements they estimated the amount of vitamin D in patients’ blood at the time of diagnosis.
The results showed that those with higher vitamin D scores after being diagnosed with cancer were 50 per cent less likely to die from the disease – compared to those with lower vitamin D scores.
The second study – funded by Cancer Research UK and the National Institutes of Health – found that malignant melanoma patients** with the lowest levels of vitamin D in their blood at the time they were diagnosed were 30 per cent more likely to relapse from the disease than those with the highest levels.
The researchers from Leeds also found that patients who have higher levels of vitamin D at diagnosis have thinner tumours at diagnosis.
“Our results suggest that melanoma patients may need to get vitamin D by eating fatty fish or by taking supplements to ensure they have normal levels. But we are continuing to carry out research to find out the optimum level of vitamin D. There’s some evidence from other health studies that high levels of vitamin D are also harmful – so we should aim for a normal level rather than a very high one.”
“But protection from burning in the sun is still vital. Cancer Research UK’s SunSmart campaign advises that people with lots of moles, red hair fair skin and a family history of the disease should take extra care in the sun as they are more at risk of the most dangerous form of skin cancer Anyone who is worried about changes in their moles should go to their GP.”