Vitamin D may help fight colon cancer

12 Jan 2015

A new study led by researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute focused on metastatic colon cancer and vitamin D. They found that patients with metastatic colorectal cancer who had high levels of vitamin D in their bloodstream prior to treatment with chemotherapy and targeted drugs, survived longer, on average, than patients with lower levels of the vitamin.

The largest study of metastatic colorectal cancer patients and vitamin D

The data of a phase 3 clinical trial with more than 1,000 patients with metastatic colorectal cancer, adds to vitamin D's already impressive luster as a potential cancer-inhibiting agent. In the study, patients with the highest blood levels of vitamin D survived for a median period of 32.6 months, compared to 24.5 months for those with the lowest levels. "This is the largest study that has been undertaken of metastatic colorectal cancer patients and vitamin D, supporting the potential benefits of maintaining sufficient levels of vitamin D in improving patient survival times" said the study's lead author, Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH, a medical oncologist at Dana-Farber. 

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An average 33% increase on survival rate

Researchers divided the patients into 5 groups based on vitamin D levels. On average, those with the highest levels survived 33% longer than those with the lowest (32.6 months vs. 24.5 months). Higher vitamin D levels were also associated with longer time to disease progression (12.2 months vs. 10.1 months).

Still too early to consider vitamin D as a treatment for colon cancer

As the study didn't examine whether there is a biological cause-and-effect relationship between higher vitamin D levels and extended survival, it's too early to recommend vitamin D as a treatment for colon cancer.  However, as high vitamin D levels can be a reflection of a healthy lifestyle (good nutrition, plenty of outdoor physical activity), researchers controlled for factors such as diet, obesity, and level of physical activity. Even then, the relationship between elevated vitamin D levels and extended survival held firm.

 

Source: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

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