Taking vitamin D supplements can reduce the risk of dying from cancer by 13% say researchers. Modern lifestyles, which see many of us hauled up indoors, are to blame for people not getting enough sunshine. In fact a fifth of Britons are estimated to be low in vitamin D, which could be impairing their ability to fight cancer.
13% fall in the risk of dying from any form of cancer later in life
A study involving 79,000 healthy adults found taking a vitamin D supplement for at least three years was associated with a 13% fall in the risk of dying from any form of cancer later in life. The study was conducted by Michigan State University and Hurley Medical Centre which looked at the results of 10 trials involving adults with an average age of 68.
Those deficient in vitamin D twice as likely to develop pancreatic cancer
In another study, Dr Shifeng Mao, from the Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute, reported findings showing that people who were deficient in vitamin D were more than twice as likely to develop pancreatic cancer and also had a higher risk of bowel cancer.
Dr Tarek Haykal, lead researcher from Michigan State University, said: ‘I would like to see more oncologists and primary care doctors consider prescribing vitamin D for their patients as it carries many benefits with minimal side effects.’
Vitamin D along with a statin linked to a reduction in deaths from prostate cancer
A third study found taking a daily vitamin D tablet along with a statin was linked to a reduction in deaths from prostate cancer of almost 40%. This study was conducted at Madrid University Hospital in Spain and involved 2,280 men who were receiving standard treatment for prostate cancer.
Professor Daniel Bikle, of the University of California San Francisco, said: ‘In places such as the UK, there is not enough sun all year round, so supplements in winter are necessary.’
However, Dr Rachel Shaw, of Cancer Research UK, said that although “vitamin D may improve prognosis” for those with cancer, “more research is required”.
Researchers are not sure exactly how vitamin D fights cancer but some scientists believe it produces an enzyme that ‘detoxifies’ natural acids in the body. Reducing the potency of these acids may help stop them causing damage to internal organs, which in turn reduces cancer risk.
The findings from the studies mentioned here were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago and adds to growing pressure on the government to fortify common foods such as milk and bread with vitamin D. This is already taking place in the US, Canada, Sweden, Finland and Australia.