Vitamin D and Death Due to Colorectal Cancer

Based upon recent high quality clinical research, only Vitamin D, among all vitamins, appears to have potentially significant cancer prevention effects. However, as with all areas of clinical and laboratory research, one can find contradictory research results for Vitamin D, as well.

An innovative prospective clinical research study is now reporting its results, which appear to link Vitamin D deficiency to colorectal cancer death rates. As with previous research studies, the findings of this study strongly suggest that Vitamin D deficiency may be linked with a higher risk of death due to colorectal cancer. The findings of this clinical research study appear in the current issue of the journal Cancer.

An interesting and unique aspect of this particular clinical research study was its evaluation of the potential impact of Vitamin D deficiency on the well-known increased risk of death due to colorectal cancer that has been observed in African-Americans when compared to Caucasian patients. As our bodies create active Vitamin D from exposure of our skin to sunlight, and as people with darkly pigmented skin are more prone to developing Vitamin D deficiency, when compared to lightly-pigmented people, the authors of this study sought to assess the potential colorectal cancer risk impact of Vitamin D deficiency on patient volunteers with darkly pigmented skin.

In this large public health study, the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), which was conducted between 1988 and 1994, blood levels of Vitamin D were measured in study volunteers. Patients with a Vitamin D level of less than 20 ng/dL were considered to be deficient in Vitamin D.

As previous public health studies have also shown, the results of this study indicated that African-Americans are twice as likely to die of colorectal cancer when compared to Caucasians. When blood levels of Vitamin D were considered, specifically, the increased risk of dying from colorectal cancerobserved in African-American patients decreased by 40 percent among those African-Americans who had normal levels of Vitamin D in their blood. (These results, therefore, suggest that at least 40 percent of the increased risk of dying from colorectal cancer in African-American persons is likely to be caused by Vitamin D deficiency.) When patients of all races were considered in terms of Vitamin D deficiency as a risk factor for death due to colorectal cancer, patient volunteers with a blood level of Vitamin D less than 20 ng/dL were more than twice as likely (i.e., a 211 percent increase in risk)to die of colorectal cancerduring the course of this prospective research study, when compared with patients who had normal Vitamin D levels.

In summary, this large prospectively conducted public health study found, as have previous studies, a significant association between Vitamin D deficiency and the risk of dying from colorectal cancer. (Previous Vitamin D studies have also identified a 25 to 40 percent reduction in the incidence of colorectal cancer, and death due to colorectal cancer, in study volunteers with blood Vitamin D levels in the 30 to 40 ng/dL range.) While not all clinical research studies have shown this level of colorectal cancer risk reduction associated with normal blood levels of Vitamin D, this particular study joins a growing list of clinical studies that appear to show a significant reduction in colorectal cancer risk associated with adequate levels of Vitamin D in the blood.

As excessive Vitamin D intake can cause significant health problems (especially in patients with kidney disease and parathyroid gland disease), you should check with your doctor prior to considering the use of Vitamin D supplements.

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