New research suggests that bowel and breast cancer patients with more vitamin D in their blood tend to have better survival rates and remain in remission for longer than those who are deficient.
Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai analysed the results of 25 separate studies looking at vitamin D and cancer death rates. 17,332 patients were involved in the study, and they had their vitamin D levels measured before undergoing any cancer treatment.
Results showed that a 10 nanomole per litre increase in vitamin D blood levels was associated with a 4% increased chance of survival.
Scientist Professor Hui Wang, who lead the study, said: “The results suggest vitamin D may influence the prognosis for people with breast cancer, colorectal (bowel) cancer and lymphoma, in particular.”
There was less evidence of a link between vitamin D and lung cancer, prostate cancer, stomach cancer, melanoma skin cancer, leukaemia, and Merkel cell carcinoma.
Vitamin D is vital for a wide range of biological processes in the body and is produced naturally when skin is exposed to sunlight. It can also be absorbed from certain foods – including fish, eggs, mushrooms and fortified cereals – as well as supplements.
A key focus of the study was a protein referred to as the vitamin D receptor. This is sensitive to the vitamin and found in nearly every cell in the body.
Professor Wang added: “Considering that vitamin D deficiency is a widespread issue all over the world, it is important to ensure that everyone has sufficient levels of this important nutrient.
“Physicians need to pay close attention to vitamin D levels in people who have been diagnosed with cancer.”