In part two of my look at vitamin D’s (click here to see Part 1) powers of cancer prevention, I look into deficiencies in this nutrient before taking a peek at the first cancer it could help prevent: prostate cancer.
The only way to be sure that someone is “deficient” in vitamin D is to measure the blood. And that depends on the amount of skin exposed to sunlight and how much vitamin D is in the diet and in supplements. If it’s in the normal range, a person automatically has between a 30% and 50% lower risk of getting colon cancer, breast cancer, or prostate cancer. Only recently did we learn that a deficiency in North America is quite common. Especially in these groups of people:
— Over 50% of African Americans
— 84% of African Americans over 65
— 54% of community living residents over 50
— 38% of nursing home residents
— 41% of outpatient healthy adults 49-83 years old
— 32% of young adults in the Boston area at the end of the winter
Other than sun exposure, risk factors include obesity, bowel diseases, and problems with absorbing fat.
The older you get, the higher your risk of prostate cancer. It doesn’t help that aging is also linked with less sun exposure, and a weakened ability for the body to produce vitamin D. Prostate cancer deaths are directly linked to low sun exposure.
In Finland, a study reported that low levels of vitamin D led to a more aggressive prostate cancer. Both low and high levels, as a matter of fact, have been linked with a higher prostate cancer risk. Therefore, future research will be needed to further our understanding of the relationship between vitamin D and prostate cancer — but, for now, having adequate amounts seems important.
The most active form of vitamin D is made in the kidney (it’s called calcitriol.) In the last decade, very encouraging proof suggests that this form may be a great addition to traditional treatments of difficult prostate cancer. Talk to your doctor about whether you should be taking vitamin-D supplements and, if so, what type and at what dosage.