Recent studies remind us of vitamin D’s cancer-protective potential

Scanning some on-line newspapers today my eye was caught by reports of a couple of studies concerning vitamin D and cancer. The link between this nutrient and this condition is not new ” there is a huge stack of evidence now which shows as association between higher levels of vitamin D in the body and lower risk of several different forms of cancer. The two studies I write about today just add to this stack, but are interesting nonetheless.

The first of these studies was published this month in the British Journal of Cancer, and focused on the relationship between vitamin D levels and colon cancer [1]. The study assessed more than 1000 individuals diagnosed with colon cancer between 1986 and 2004. Individuals with the highest levels of vitamin D were found to be at half the risk of dying from colon cancer during the study than individuals with the lowest levels.

In addition, overall risk of mortality was reduced in those with highest vitamin D levels (risk reduction was 38 per cent).

In the second study, researchers assessed the relationship between vitamin D levels and malignant melanoma [2]. Part of this study followed 871 individuals for an average of almost 5 years. Higher vitamin D levels were associated with thinner tumours at diagnosis.

Also, higher vitamin D levels were found to be associated with reduced risk of relapse and enhanced survival.

Now, remember, most of our vitamin D requirements come from the action of sunlight on the skin. So, in theory, sunlight exposure could be good news for those wishing to protect themselves from an untimely death due to melanoma.

This may seem somewhat counterintuitive, seeing as we are traditionally warned that sunlight causes melanoma. However, this is not as assured as we have been led to believe (see here for more on this).

The other thing to bear in mind, of course, is that even if sunlight does increase the risk of melanoma, it likely reduces the risk of several other cancers including colon cancer. Awhile back some Norwegian researchers calculated that for each life saved by reducing sunlight exposure (as a result of reduced skin cancer incidence), 10 lives would be lost due to increased incidence in others cancers.


1. Ng K, et al. Prospective study of predictors of vitamin D status and survival in patients with colorectal cancer. Br J Cancer. 2009;101(6):916-23.

2. Newton-Bishop JA, et al. Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D3 Levels Are Associated With Breslow Thickness at Presentation and Survival From Melanoma. J Clin Oncol. 2009 Sep 21. [Epub ahead of print]

9 Responses to Recent studies remind us of vitamin D’s cancer-protective potential

  1. Ted Hutchinson 24 September 2009 at 1:07 am #

    People wanting to check their vitamin D status is 55ng/ml 135nmol/l, the level associated with least cancer incidence, best cancer prognosis, may like to know that Grassrootshealth D Action campaign
    offer cost price postal 25(OH)D vitamin D testing. £24 or $40 is not a huge sum to be reassured that your intake of vitamin d3 is effective.

    Vieth explains in his paper
    “How to optimize vitamin D supplementation to prevent cancer, based on cellular adaptation and hydroxylase enzymology.”
    why a high and stable vitamin d level offers the best protection from cancer.
    He has kindly provided me with a non-copyright version of this paper that I will be pleased to forward to anyone with concerns about using up to 10,000iu/daily vitamin d that may be required to raise attain and maintain levels around 55ng/ml. 135nmol/l. will find me.

  2. Ted Hutchinson 24 September 2009 at 2:03 am #

    Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D3 Levels Are Associated With Breslow Thickness at Presentation and Survival From Melanoma.

    Results from the retrospective study were consistent with a role for vitamin D in melanoma outcome. The cohort study tests this hypothesis, providing evidence that higher 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 levels, at diagnosis, are associated with both thinner tumors and better survival from melanoma, independent of Breslow thickness. Patients with melanoma, and those at high risk of melanoma, should seek to ensure vitamin D sufficiency.

    This fits in in with previous research suggesting sun exposure is associated with increased survival from melanoma.

  3. Ted Hutchinson 25 September 2009 at 11:26 am #

    Reduced serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels in stage IV melanoma patients.

    ” Among the patients with malignant melanoma, significantly reduced serum 25(OH)D levels were found in the stage IV patients as compared to stage I patients, and those with low 25(OH)D serum levels (20 ng/ml).”

    The range associated with least cancer incidence is 50~60ng/ml. As there is a difference between the prognosis for melanomas in bodies below 10ng and those above 20ng, it makes you wonder if having the NATURAL level human bodies NATURALLY attain given regular short non burning full body UVB exposure might not lead to further improvement of prognosis.

    Breastfeeding Medicine Does Vitamin D Make the World Go ‘Round’?
    this paper sets out the level at which human breast milk flows replete with D3. I wonder why that isn’t regarded as a natural biomarker for optimal vitamin d status?

  4. Liz Smith 25 September 2009 at 2:04 pm #

    When I first contacted Grassroots Health they had a website that talked about Vit D3 difficiencies and one picture had a world map showing the areas that used the most skin sun screening, and it said these areas were the ones with the most skin cancer. Unfortunately I didnt download that sheet and when I wrote asking if they still had it, they could not find it.

    The areas covered were North America, most of Europe, and Australasia. People who never went out in the sun were also getting skin cancer. Most of us do not realise that you cannot get Vit D if you are behind glass. On going on a tour in Queensland I had to produce a tube of high factor sun cream or I would not have been allowed to go (as I do not use it, siince taking Blue green aglae I never burn anymore).

    I am due for my second testing this next week and it will be interesting to see if my reading has gone up from 35.

  5. Gabriella 26 September 2009 at 2:26 am #

    A question for Liz Smith and or Dr. Briffa:

    What exactly is Blue Green Algae and why it prevents burning?I live in California and I like to go out in the sun without sun screen. However, I do get burned if I am not careful. Would you please let me know?

    P.S. I get all my Vit. D3 needs covered by taking capsules and Cod Liver Oil in soft gels. Probably 4000 to 5000 units a day. But it is a shame not to use the sun instead.

  6. Richard Nikoley 28 September 2009 at 1:32 am #

    It’s pretty interesting when you run the associations for melanoma against latitude, and even sunscreen industry profits.

  7. Liz Smith 28 September 2009 at 3:31 pm #

    Gabriella, Most health stores in USA sell Klamarth Blue Green algae, and Spiralina (Whole Foods, Trader Joes etc) I don’t know why it stops burning but thats not why I took it in the first place, my homeopath suggested it. I am so pale I was known as ‘milk bottle’ in my youth! By elimination I found it was the Blue Green that let my body tan. I had some amalgam fillings removed and my dentist (who works holistically) gave it to me as its good for removing toxic and heavy metals from the body. Hope this helps, if not shout again.


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