A recent research analysis of clinical trials suggests that taking vitamin D can prolong life in people who develop cancer. Researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing carried out the research. They evaluated data from randomized controlled trials that compared people who took vitamin D supplements with a placebo group for at least 3 years.
The analysis included trials that had examined the use of vitamin D supplements to prevent disease over a minimum follow-up of 4 years. Furthermore, it records the incidence of cancer and cancer-related deaths as well. In total, the analysis took in 10 trials with 79,055 participants. All the participants had an average age of 68 years. Moreover, 78% of the participants were female.
Over the follow-up period, the results of the analysis revealed a significant link between the use of vitamin D supplements and a lower risk of death to cancer. It was found that people who took vitamin D supplements had a 13% lower risk of dying from cancer than those who took a placebo over the same period.
Most importantly, there was no significant association reported between the use of vitamin D and prevention of cancer. The difference in the mortality rate between the vitamin D and placebo groups was statistically significant. It just indicates the importance of taking vitamin D among the cancer population.
What is cancer?
As per the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer is the second main cause of deaths across the world. In 2018, around 18.1 million people found out that they had cancer whereas, 9.6 million died of the disease.
Cancer is basically the uncontrolled division of cells. When the cells multiply abnormally a tumor may form that may or may not spread in the body. Cancer has its varied forms, depending on the type of cell and part of the body in which it starts.
Under normal circumstances, old, damaged or worn out cells die and new ones replace them naturally. When this process stops to work properly, it may trigger cancer formation. In such a condition, the damaged or old cells do not die, or too many new cells form. This corporal dysfunction results in an excess of cells that grow out of control.
There are chances for a cancer tumor to grow and spread into nearby tissues. Similarly, cells can escape the tumor and spread through the lymph system and bloodstream to other parts of the body to initiate secondary tumors. If an individual is diagnosed with cancer at early stages, there are higher chances of him/her to survive. This is because in such a case, treatment can begin before the disease has started to spread. Otherwise, if cancer has spread, or metastasized, it is harder to treat.
How is vitamin D important?
Sunlight and vitamin D rich foods are usually the common sources to acquire vitamin D. Some people also take vitamin D supplements as well. Note, the body has to convert vitamin D into an active form before use.
The active form of vitamin D helps the gut to absorb calcium during digestion and keep blood levels stable for use in forming bone. In addition, it also works to maintain healthy bones, control cell growth, immune function, and inflammation. Vitamin D performs these functions by gene regulation for cell differentiation, division, and death.
There is an increasing number of studies evaluating the fact that whether taking vitamin D supplements could prevent osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and other diseases. This respective study looks at this evidence in relation to cancer prevention.
The findings of the study are promising, however; according to the researchers there is still a lot to find out, including the correct dosage and blood levels of vitamin D. Furthermore, more and more research is required to find out that how many additional years of life vitamin D can give people with cancer and how the underlying mechanism of action works.
As per the research analysis, the findings are sufficiently strong to make more and more doctors prescribe vitamin D, especially those caring for cancer patients. It carries benefits with minimal side effects and plenty of potentials.