Bowel cancer patients with higher blood vitamin D levels survive twice as long

2014 Research

Yet again higher plasma levels of vitamin D have been shown to be linked to improved survival. This time it is for Bowel cancer. Vitamin D has long been known to be of preventative benefit in bowel cancer. Here, a team led by Malcolm Dunlop of the Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit, University of Edinburgh, conducted an observational study on bowel cancer patients and concluded that taking vitamin D supplements might well be worth exploring in clinical trials for colorectal cancer patients.

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Following 1,600 bowel cancer patients post-surgery, the team observed that those with the highest vitamin D levels survived twice as long as those with the lowest plasma levels. Three quarters of the patients with the highest plasma vitamin D levels were still alive after 5 years.

Vitamin D is made by the action of sunlight on the cholesterol layers under the skin. A little can be obtained from fish oil supplements.

Sadly, years of poor advice to stay out of the sun has misled people into thinking sunshine is bad for them. The over-emphasis on cholesterol as an enemy of health, and the increased usage of cholesterol lowering drugs like statins has exacerbated a reduction in plasma vitamin D levels in Britons. Ricketts has even made a comeback in children.

Yet there is clear evidence that vitamin D performs a number of key roles in health. For example, in the immune system, T-lymphocytes cannot attack rogue invasive or cancer cells until they have been activated. They pick up a vitamin D molecule to achieve this ‘activation’.

A few years ago, Harvard Medical School recommended that all cancer patients should be supplementing with 5,000IUs a day. One week on a sunny beach would provide 70,000IUs.

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2014 Research
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