August 21, 2007
Vitamin D Can Reduce Breast And Colorectal Cancer

Vitamin D is the vitamin whose increased supplementation stands the best chances of reducing the incidence of major diseases. Here's more evidence for the cancer risk reduction achievable if only more people got enough daily vitamin D.

A new study looking at the relationship between vitamin D serum levels and the risk of colon and breast cancer across the globe has estimated the number of cases of cancer that could be prevented each year if vitamin D3 levels met the target proposed by researchers.

Cedric F. Garland, Dr.P.H., cancer prevention specialist at the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and colleagues estimate that 250,000 cases of colorectal cancer and 350,000 cases of breast cancer could be prevented worldwide by increasing intake of vitamin D3, particularly in countries north of the equator.  Vitamin D3 is available through diet, supplements and exposure of the skin to sunlight.

“For the first time, we are saying that 600,000 cases of breast and colorectal cancer could be prevented each year worldwide, including nearly 150,000 in the United States alone,” said study co-author Garland.   The paper, which looks at the dose-response relationship between vitamin D and cancer, will be published in the August edition of the journal Nutrition Reviews.

The study combined data from surveys of serum vitamin D levels during winter from 15 countries.  It is the first such study to look at satellite measurements of sunshine and cloud cover in countries where actual blood serum levels of vitamin D3 had also been determined.  The data were then applied to 177 countries to estimate the average serum level of a vitamin D metabolite of people living there.

The data revealed an inverse association of serum vitamin D with risk of colorectal and breast cancer.  The protective effect began at levels ranging from 24 to 32 nanograms per milliliter of 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration in the serum.  The 25-hydroxyvitamin D level is the main indicator of vitamin D status.  The late winter average 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the US is about 15-18 ng/ml. The researchers maintain that increasing vitamin D levels in populations, particularly those in northern climates, has the potential to both prevent and possibly serve as an adjunct to existing treatments for cancer.

The work builds on previous studies by Garland and colleagues (Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular, February 2007) which found that raising the serum 25(OH)D levels to 55 ng/mL was optimal for cancer prevention.  This is the first study to recommend optimal vitamin D serum levels which, Garland said, are high enough to provide the needed benefit but which have been found by other scientists to be low enough to avoid health risks.

They recommend 2000 IU of vitamin D per day.

“This could be best achieved with a combination of diet, supplements and short intervals – 10 or 15 minutes a day – in the sun,” said Garland.  It could be less for very fair-skinned individuals. He went on to say that “the appropriate dose of vitamin D in order to reach this level, could be very little in a lifeguard in Southern California… or quite a lot for someone in Northern Europe who tends to remain indoors most of the year.” 

The serum level recommended by the study would correspond to intake of 2000 International Units per day of vitamin D3 for a meaningful reduction in colorectal cancer. The researchers recommend 2000 IU/day, plus, when weather allows, a few minutes in the sun with at least 40% of the skin exposed, for a meaningful reduction in breast cancer incidence, unless the individual has a history of skin cancer or a photosensitivity disease.

Unless you are taking supplements or spend a lot of time outdoors even in the winter you probably do not get enough vitamin D.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 August 21 06:27 PM  Aging Diet Cancer Studies

TTT said at August 21, 2007 6:30 PM:

Please list out which foods (other than the obvious milk) have Vitamin D.

Randall Parker said at August 21, 2007 7:10 PM:

TTT, Fish. Only fish.

Though some foods have it as fortification. Some cereals for example.

Gerald Hib bs said at August 22, 2007 12:24 AM:

Remember the old sci-fi gem of a meal in a pill? It looks like we probably won't have that simply because humans like to eat. However I know I take a number of pills each day to help achieve optimum health. I think what we may wind up having is treatment to end the mere possibility of obesity, a regimen of pills that supplies our actual nutritional needs (or delivery via nanobots or some such other futuristic/no error approach) and people will wind up eating whatever the hell the feel like eating. Sounds good to me.

Sherri said at August 22, 2007 1:24 AM:

Cod liver oil pills have D3, are pretty cheap, and you get the Omega 3 bonus.

Brett Bellmore said at August 22, 2007 8:48 AM:

I don't think it would be *terribly* futuristic to engineer new intestinal flora which would produce more of the vitamins we don't get enough of through our diet. As well as providing proper fatty acids, and so on. Trace minerals are one thing, but so long as the necessary elements are present in your diet, and enough energy, it shouldn't matter this much what you're eating.

LIZZI said at August 22, 2007 8:56 AM:

Most of the Vitamin D studies to date show intriguing associations but do not show that supplementing Vitamin D provides protection. There are probably plenty of genetic polymorphisms which determine each individual's 25-OH Vitamin D level at baseline. Ask yourself why surfers in Hawaii have been found to have low D, with high individual variation. Look at the research on DHEA for example. Naturally high levels in 80 year olds predict longevity but if you supplement DHEA you get no such increase in lifespan. Or consider homocysteine levels. High homocystiene levels are associated with increased risk of stroke,osteoporosis,etc., but decreasing homocysteine levels with B6,B12,and folate supplementation doesn't seem to be protective and may be detrimental. Randall if you have the time pull out the articles that clearly show that supplementing helps

rsilvetz said at August 24, 2007 5:40 PM:

LIZZI -- has cataloged and referenced most of the literature in the area. Also, they devastatingly analyzed those reports in recent years that support some of your contentions. It is clear the popular statements were at variance with the statements actually made in the literature and were sometimes opposite the truth. Net net the preponderance of the evidence supports supplementation.

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