Cancer Risk Drops with Vitamin D

April 11, 2016

Cut the Risk of Cancer with Vitamin D 

 Reference Science News, PLOS One

 Let's get to the chase. The Institute of Medicine, the supposed gurus and final authority of truth, justice, and the American way decided that a level of 20 ng was enough for humans, and could be achieved in most Americans with a supplement of 600 IU a day. They basically looked at bone health as having the strongest evidence, and claimed that everything else was still too uncertain. That represented a 50% increase from 400 IU a day. 

It seemed a bit conservative because a 20 year old Caucasian will make 1000 IU in 1 minute of sunshine in June.   Heavens forbid you get more than 36 seconds of sunshine. It seemed overly cautious. But there has been debate about it because we haven't had good studies comparing populations and the effects of higher doses. Ok, at least until now. 

Here, Cedric Garland, faculty from UCSD Medical School compared cancer rates from two populations of women who had Vitamin D levels measured.   In one clinical study, 1,169 women had an average level of Vitamin D of 30 ng and a cancer rate of 1,020 per 100,000 years. In the second prospective trial, they had a Vitamin D level of 48 and a cancer rate of 722 per 100,000 years. 

 What does that turn into in regards to risk? That's the bottom line. They essentially found a linear risk of cancer based on Vitamin D level, with a 67% increased risk if your D was below 20 compared to over 48.   That compares favorably to another study published last month that I didn't review on prostate cancer that shows higher rates of aggressive prostate cancer with lower vitamin D levels. 

 How does Vitamin D do this? The core role of Vitamin D is to signal cells to become mature and do their function.   Cancer cells never become fully mature. Mature cells have a natural ticking clock which runs out and includes cell death. That's why we die at age...90-120. It's the Hayflick Limit. Cancer cells don't have that. Vitamin D helps set it in motion. Vitamin D is preserved in every living being from Plankton to Humans, and does that function in all of us. And that's why it has so many myriad activities. 

 I believe there are several reasons why our research on populations has failed to show much effect yet. The human body is designed to soak up D and save it for a rainy day. It takes a year to get to a new blood level when you change doses. If you do a study that lasts only 1-3 years, the first year is just getting up to speed.   You need to start any study with a loading dose to make sure folks get their blood levels up fast. There is good evidence that 100,000 IU all at once will raise your blood level 14 ng. And no one takes into account skin pigment and its effect on D.   More pigment, more sunshine needed. Dark, African type skin requires up to 6 times as much sunlight. So African-Americans living far up north have much lower Vitamin D levels (12-16 is average) and have much more aggressive breast and prostate cancer than Caucasian folks.

 www. What will work for me.   Goodness. My D was 7 when I measured it 15 years ago. I take 20,000 IU a week and my level stays pretty reliably in the 40s. My skin has several cancers on it that is keeping my dermatologist fully employed, so I don't want any more sunlight than I have to have. And being closer to 70 than 20, I don't make more D anyways. If I get a cold, I boost my D by taking an extra dose of 50,000 for three days.   

 Pop Quiz

  1. Our current guidelines for Vitamin D suggest 600 IU a day is enough. T or F              Answer:  True
  1. That level of D supplementation will get your blood level to 20 ng. T or F               Answer:   True
  1. This study shows that you will have a 69% higher risk for cancer with that blood level.   T or F                          Answer:   In a nutshell, true
  1. Vitamin D has the function of making cells more immature and die later. T or F            Answer:   False! It makes them die sooner and become more mature.
  1. Folks with skin pigment probably need more supplementation to lower their D levels further. T or F                       Answer:   They need the D to raise their levels, and that will lower their risk of cancer.