March 2, 2007

Vitamin D protects against prostate cancer & increases survival rates

Natural Sunlight Helps Prevent Prostate Cancer and Increases Survival

Written by Kevin Flatt

Natural Sunlight Helps Prevent Prostate Cancer and Increases Survival. The fat-soluble vitamins A and D have both been found to affect the growth of prostate cancer in preclinical experiments. Of the two, vitamin D has been the focus of greater attention in recent years, and there are indications that it may be useful both in the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer. (Semin Urol Oncol. 1999 May;17(2):77-84).

“…the cells treated with Vitamin D fared much better. And while the vitamin protects healthy cells, Rebecca Mason’s experiments are showing that Vitamin D has the opposite effect on cancer cells. It kills them.” - Professor Michael Holick.

It was reported on 18 Sep 2005 that sunshine may protect against prostate cancer. The findings appear in the June issue of Cancer Research. “It’s a pretty impressive finding,” Gary G. Schwartz, one of the researchers in the study, told WebMD. “Men with high solar exposure had their risk of prostate cancer cut in half. This leaves us with even greater confidence that vitamin D deficiency really does increase a man’s risk of prostate cancer.” Unlike other vitamins, a person’s main source of vitamin D isn’t food; it’s sunshine. The body makes its own vitamin D, but only when it’s exposed to the sun. (

Reduced risk of advanced prostate cancer was associated with high sun exposure determined by reflectometry and high occupational outdoor activity. (Cancer Res. 2005 Jun 15;65(12):5470-9).

Back in 1992, Hanchette and Schwartz analyzed American prostate cancer deaths in relation to sunlight and discovered a negative correlation, a very significant association. That is, they found that men who received more sunlight were less likely to die from prostate cancer. (Cancer. 1992 Dec 15;70(12):2861-9).

In the same year, Schwartz discovered that death rates from prostate cancer were correlated with death rates from multiple sclerosis, another disease know to be associated with lack of sunlight. Again, he proposed that lack of vitamin D may a causative factor in both diseases. (Neuroepidemiology. 1992;11(4-6):244-54).

In 2000, Ahonen and colleagues conducted a careful study of calcidiol levels in young men and followed them for the development of prostate cancer. (Calcitriol is the active form of vitamin D, the form made in optimal quantities by your body when your vitamin D blood levels are ideal). He found a relationship between low vitamin D blood levels and prostate cancer. Ahonen found young men with calcidiol levels below 40 nm/L (16 ng/ml) were three times more likely to develop prostate cancer than were men with higher levels. Just as important, he found these men were six times more likely to develop invasive cancers. This finding implied a treatment effect for vitamin D as the prevention of invasiveness is a key goal of treatment. (Cancer Causes Control. 2000 Oct;11(9):847-52).

In 2001, Luscombe and colleagues at the School of Medicine in North Straffordshire Hospital in England published three studies linking ultraviolet exposure and skin type to the development of prostate cancer. They found that cumulative outdoor sun exposure, outdoor occupations and skin type was associated with reduced risk of advanced stage tumours. They also found that childhood sunburns dramatically reduced the risk of developing prostate cancer, probably because those with fair skin are more likely to burn but also find it easier to make vitamin D in their skin. Furthermore, they found that people who have difficulty making a skin pigment called melanin (a natural sun screen) are much less likely to develop prostate cancer. (Br J Cancer. 2001 Nov 16;85(10):1504-9 and Carcinogenesis. 2001 Sep;22(9):1343-7 and Lancet. 2001 Aug 25;):641-2).

In 2003, Chen and Holick at Boston University School of Medicine called for the use of vitamin D in prostate cancer. After reviewing most of the research on the subject, the authors concluded, "adequate exposure to sunlight or oral supplementation might provide a simple way to increase synthesis of calcitriol in the prostate and, therefore, decrease the risk of prostate cancer." They added, “adequate vitamin D nutrition should be maintained, not only for bone health in men and women, but because it might decrease the risk of prostate cancer and mitigate metastatic disease should it develop.” (Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Nov;14(9):423-30).

In 2003, Bodiwala and colleagues in England studied sun exposure and skin type and again found that men who sunbathed or otherwise exposed themselves to sunlight were less likely to develop prostate cancer. They also identified men with various combinations of skin type and reduced sun exposure, which were up to 13 times more likely to develop prostate cancer. Those with fair skin seemed to obtain equal protection with less sun exposure that the other skin types, probably because those with fair skin find it easier to make vitamin D in their skin. (Cancer Lett. 2003 Oct 28;200(2):141-8 and Carcinogenesis. 2003 Apr;24(4):711-7 and Cancer Lett. 2003 Mar 31;192(2):145-9).

In 2004 researchers in Norway showed that patients diagnosed with prostate cancer in the summer and autumn, when vitamin D levels are the highest, have a significantly better prognosis than patients diagnosed in the winter or spring. The authors concluded that their “study supports the hypothesis that vitamin D may influence cancer specific mortality in a beneficial way. A possible mechanism to explain our results might be a combined action of vitamin D and cancer treatment that amplifies the treatment effect. In confirmed, in addition to traditional cancer treatment, vitamin D would be of particular importance in the primary prevention of deaths from cancer.” (Cancer Causes Control. 2004 Mar;15(2):149-58).

Medical News Today reported on 18 Sep 2005 that Scientists reporting in the journal Photochemisty and Photobiology estimated that about 50,000-63,000 annual cancer deaths in the U.S. (10% of all cancer deaths) could be prevented if all Americans had sufficient vitamin D. These findings are based on data in the Atlas of Cancer Mortality Rates for the United States, , (, but are also supported by a number of recent reports that vitamin D plays a very important role in increasing survival once cancer is discovered. These deaths greatly outnumber the annual number of deaths from melanoma (8000) and skin cancer (2000). (Medical News Today 18 Sep 2005).

Leading vitamin D researchers are suggesting that the optimum adult level seems to be 4,000 daily units which is 20 times the government level for those 50 and under. The government says 2,000 is the limit for all ages before side-effects result. The researchers disagree and say amounts considerably above 2,000 units may be warranted when considering the multitude of potential benefits. (CBN News 10/1/2007).

Make sure you’re taking D3. If the label says vitamin D2, then it’s not the good kind of vitamin D. So often, you see orange juice or foods that say they’re vitamin D fortified. But many times, those are fortified with D2. Vitamin D has to be taken with fat. Taking a vitamin D pill with orange juice isn’t going to work, it won’t absorb.

Try to get brand-name recommendations. Sadly, many doctors haven’t learned about supplements in medical school, so your doctor may not be able to advise you on that. To find the best brands, do your homework. Either get names of products from people you trust, or go on the Internet and look these supplements up.

Typically, dieticians say the best source of vitamins is through the foods we eat, rather than supplements. But Judy Carr, a registered dietician and certified diabetes educator says the best food sources of vitamin D aren’t necessarily the foods we love. In December, after reading a little more about the vitamin, Carr asked her doctor to include a vitamin D analysis with her routine blood work. She was surprised when her results came back showing her levels were on the low end of normal. “I’m thinking if that’s me, because I don’t have a horrible diet, I can’t imagine what the general population’s is,” Carr says. (Denver Post 14/2/2007).

Dr. Michael Holick, a leading vitamin D researcher who serves as director of the general clinical research center at Boston University Medical Center, said it’s difficult to get enough vitamin D from food, noting that you’d have to eat a 3½-ounce serving of fish like salmon, mackerel or sardines “almost every day just to begin to satisfy your requirement.”

The NIH agrees. It can be difficult to obtain enough vitamin D from natural food sources. For many people, consuming vitamin D fortified foods and adequate sunlight exposure are essential for maintaining a healthy vitamin D status. In some groups, dietary supplements may be needed to meet the daily need for vitamin D.

A tablespoon of cod-liver oil contains more than 1,300 IUs. Salmon (360 IUs for 3.5 ounces), sardines (250 IUs for 13/4 ounces) and fortified milk (about 100 IUs per serving) are also good sources.

No matter what cancer you have, or are trying to prevent, the real question is should cancer patients be left vitamin D deficient? Many experts will tell you that vitamin D should not be taken for breast cancer or prostate cancer until well controlled scientific studies prove it helps. The problem with that approach is two-fold. First, you may die waiting for the studies to be conducted and two, it misses the point. The point is this: women with breast cancer should not allow themselves to be vitamin D deficient and neither should their doctors. (

Finally, I’ve always thought that it’s pretty significant that the parts of the body least exposed to the sun are more likely to experience a malignant melanoma.

But a new look at 528 melanoma victims over five years also found that increased sun exposure led to increased survivability, according to the study led by Marianne Berwick of the department of internal medicine at the University of New Mexico. “It’s totally counterintuitive, and we’re trying to investigate it,” said Berwick, who is doing a similar study of 3,700 melanoma patients worldwide. “It’s really strange, because sunburn seems to be one of the factors associated with improved survival.” (The Baltimore Sun 2/2/2005).

Related articles:
Cancer (General) Articles and News

The Multitude of Health Benefits from Natural Sunlight and Vitamin D


Konety BR, Johnson CS, Trump DL, Getzenberg RH. Vitamin D in the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer. Semin Urol Oncol. 1999 May;17(2):77-84

John EM, Schwartz GG, Koo J, Van Den Berg D, Ingles SA. Sun exposure, vitamin D receptor gene polymorphisms, and risk of advanced prostate cancer. Cancer Res. 2005 Jun 15;65(12):5470-9.

Hanchette CL, Schwartz GG. Geographic patterns of prostate cancer mortality. Evidence for a protective effect of ultraviolet radiation. Cancer. 1992 Dec 15;70(12):2861-9.

Schwartz GG. Multiple sclerosis and prostate cancer: what do their similar geographies suggest? Neuroepidemiology. 1992;11(4-6):244-54.

Ahonen MH, Tenkanen L, Teppo L, Hakama M, Tuohimaa P. Prostate cancer risk and prediagnostic serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels (Finland). Cancer Causes Control. 2000 Oct;11(9):847-52.

Luscombe CJ, French ME, Liu S, Saxby MF, Jones PW, Fryer AA, Strange RC. Prostate cancer risk: associations with ultraviolet radiation, tyrosinase and melanocortin-1 receptor genotypes. Br J Cancer. 2001 Nov 16;85(10):1504-9.

Luscombe CJ, French ME, Liu S, Saxby MF, Jones PW, Fryer AA, Strange RC. Outcome in prostate cancer associations with skin type and polymorphism in pigmentation-related genes. Carcinogenesis. 2001 Sep;22(9):1343-7.

Luscombe CJ, Fryer AA, French ME, Liu S, Saxby MF, Jones PW, Strange RC. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation: association with susceptibility and age at presentation with prostate cancer. Lancet. 2001 Aug 25;):641-2.

Chen TC, Holick MF. Vitamin D and prostate cancer prevention and treatment. Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Nov;14(9):423-30.

Bodiwala D, Luscombe CJ, French ME, Liu S, Saxby MF, Jones PW, Fryer AA, Strange RC. Associations between prostate cancer susceptibility and parameters of exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Cancer Lett. 2003 Oct 28;200(2):141-8.

Bodiwala D, Luscombe CJ, French ME, Liu S, Saxby MF, Jones PW, Ramachandran S, Fryer AA, Strange RC. Susceptibility to prostate cancer: studies on interactions between UVR exposure and skin type. Carcinogenesis. 2003 Apr;24(4):711-7.

Bodiwala D, Luscombe CJ, Liu S, Saxby M, French M, Jones PW, Fryer AA, Strange RC. Prostate cancer risk and exposure to ultraviolet radiation: further support for the protective effect of sunlight. Cancer Lett. 2003 Mar 31;192(2):145-9.

Robsahm TE, Tretli S, Dahlback A, Moan J. Vitamin D3 from sunlight may improve the prognosis of breast-, colon- and prostate cancer (Norway). Cancer Causes Control. 2004 Mar;15(2):149-58.,1,.story?coll=bal-nationworld-headlines

Copyright 2007 KevinFlatt. Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is presented for information purposes only and is in no way intended to replace professional medical care or attention by a qualified practitioner. It cannot and should not be used as a basis for diagnosis or choice of treatment.

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