Aggressive prostate cancer caused by vitamin D deficiency, scientists now declare
Men with suboptimal or deficient levels of vitamin D are much more likely than other men to develop prostate cancer, according to a new study funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Defense (DoD). Researchers from Northwestern University near Chicago found that vitamin D deficiency can increase the risk of aggressive prostate cancer in some men by nearly 500 percent, highlighting the need for increased focus on natural sunlight exposure and supplementation.
The research was based on an assessment of more than 600 men from around the Chicago area who came from varying ethnic backgrounds. Each of the men had elevated PSA levels or some other risk factor associated with prostate cancer going into the study, and each was evaluated for vitamin D deficiency prior to undergoing a prostate biopsy.
After adjusting for external factors that may have influenced the results, including things like diet, obesity, smoking status and family history, the researchers determined that vitamin D levels are inversely associated with prostate cancer risk. This means that, for each unit of decrease on the vitamin D scale, there is a corresponding increase on the prostate cancer risk scale, and this increase is even more pronounced among certain ethnic groups.
“European-American men and African-American men had 3.66 times and 4.89 times increased odds of having aggressive prostate cancer respectively and 2.42 times and 4.22 times increased odds of having tumor stage T2b or higher, respectively,” reads an announcement by Northwestern University. “African-American men with severe vitamin D deficiency also had 2.43 times increased odds of being diagnosed with prostate cancer.”
Published in Clinical Cancer Research, the new study draws attention to the crucial role that vitamin D plays in reproductive health. Corresponding with research involving women where vitamin D deficiency has been linked to infertility, the latest prostate cancer discovery demonstrates a need for the public to pay closer attention to vitamin D intake.
“Vitamin D deficiency could be a biomarker of advanced prostate tumor progression in large segments of the general population,” stated Adam B. Murphy, M.D., lead author of the study. “Vitamin D deficiency is more common and severe in people with darker skin and it could be that this deficiency is a contributor to prostate cancer progression among African-Americans.”
Go out in the sun more or supplement with vitamin D3 to avoid disease
Murphy and his team recommend that more men be screened for vitamin D deficiency, since minor deficiencies can be asymptomatic. But a good rule of thumb for everyday health maintenance is to spend at least 15 minutes out in the sun every day without sunscreen during the summer, or to supplement with at least 5,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D3 daily during the rest of the year, along with magnesium.
The Vitamin D Council has a wealth of information on its website that can help guide you in protecting against vitamin D deficiency. The following page contains specific information about how vitamin D works, how best to obtain it throughout the year and how to protect your skin from sun damage while still obtaining the necessary ultraviolet B (UVB) rays for vitamin D production:
“Most foods that contain vitamin D only have small amounts, so it’s almost impossible to get what your body needs just from food,” explains the Vitamin D Council. “Because there are only small amounts of vitamin D in food there are only two sure ways to get enough vitamin D:” “Exposing your bare skin to sunlight to get ultraviolet B (UVB)” and “[t]aking vitamin D supplements.”