Vitamin D Helps to Prevent Lung Cancer, Says Research
A 2011 study of 160 patients with cancer showed that 77 percent of them had low vitamin D levels. Lung cancer kills one million people per year in developed countries, and it tops the list of the three most common types of cancer. As early as 2001, studies showed that those who ate a lot of foods high in vitamin D had the lowest rates of lung cancer, and that cancer is more common in those who live furthest from the equator.
Lung cancer can destroy vitamin D by producing an enzyme called CYP24. The levels of these enzymes in those with lung cancer are as much as 50 times higher than those without this cancer, according to a 2011 study.This enzyme breaks down calcitrol, the active form of vitamin D. This stops the cancer-helping effects of vitamin D.
Vitamin D seems to help by producing a protein, and by controlling genes to slow cell growth and reduce the spread of cancer. It’s also possible that vitamin D plays a role in cancer cell death. Nithya Ramnath, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, notes that lung cancer reoccurs in half of those who have had surgery to remove it. The five-year survival rate of those with lung cancer is low.
Dr. Hershberger from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute developed the first radioactive-free test that measures the amount of Vitamin D in tissues and blood. This, along with measuring CYP24 levels, will prove useful for vitamin D supplementation in those with lung cancer, to help prevent its spread or re-occurrence. Conventional treatments for cancer center around invasive procedures or drugs with very harsh side effects. Vitamin D remains a key, non-invasive, affordable measure that may help prevent the cancer from developing and spreading.
Most people don’t eat a lot of food rich in vitamin D, like fish, and in smaller amounts, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks. In areas where sunshine remains sparse, or for those who have little exposure to the outdoors, a high-quality Vitamin D supplement remains a good way to ensure health. For you sun-lovers? Here’s one more reason to justify your basking. Soak in the rays (with care!) and help ax disease while you’re at it.
To learn more about Vitamin D, check out our guide to all things D here.