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High vitamin D levels may help prevent cancer, suggests study

10 March 2018

Aside from established benefits of vitamin D on bone diseases, evidence continues to emerge that vitamin D could be effective for other cancers and chronic diseases.

But so far, most studies have been carried out in European or American populations, and evidence from Asian populations is limited.

People with higher levels of Vitamin D may be at a lower risk of developing all cancers, specifically liver cancer, a study involving over 30,000 participants has found. Vitamin D is made by the skin in response to sunlight.

High vitamin D level linked with reduced risk of cancer, including liver cancer, said Japanese scientists.

It is vital to determine whether the effects are the same in non-Caucasian populations, since Vitamin D metabolism and concentrations differ dependant on ethnicity. "Further studies are needed to clarify the optimal concentrations for cancer prevention", said Jeffrey Wagner, of Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.

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So an global Japan-based research team set out to assess whether Vitamin D was associated with the risk of total and site-specific cancer.

Vitamin D is a quasi-hormone synthesized from a precursor that is found in different foods but which has to be activated by the ultraviolet radiations of the sun.

The importance of the "sunshine" vitamin is not yet fully understood but the colder Scottish climate and its effects have always been linked to the nation's high levels of MS.

They analyzed the public health records of 33,736 men and women aged 40 to 69.

At the start of the study, participants provided detailed information on their medical history, diet, lifestyle, and blood samples were taken to measure vitamin D levels.

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Our vitamin D levels vary depending on the time of year, tending to be higher during the sunnier summer and autumn months than in the winter or spring. Samples were then assigned to one of four groups, based on levels.

After adjusting for well-known cancer risk factors - age, weight, smoking, and alcohol intake, for example - the researchers found that, overall, higher Vitamin D levels were associated with a 20 percent lower cancer risk for both genders.

The large sample size for overall cancer, large number of blood samples tested and the extensive follow up period were vital strengths of the study.

The protective effects of vitamin D against cancer are much more controversial in clinical studies and the results of epidemiological studies are contradictory.

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High vitamin D levels may help prevent cancer, suggests study