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Vitamin D may improve colorectal cancer survival

September 10, 2009

Higher blood levels of vitamin D may double survival rates of colorectal cancer patients, suggests a new US study.

The new study analyzed data from 1,017 participants in the Nurses' Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study previously diagnosed with colorectal cancer (1). It appears to add to the potential vitamin D benefits for colorectal health by indicating that higher levels may also improve survival rates amongst people already living with the disease.

People with the highest average levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-(OH)D) – the non-active storage form of the vitamin – had a cancer-specific mortality half that of people with the lowest average levels. Furthermore, high levels of the vitamin were associated with an overall mortality level 40 percent lower than people with the lowest average levels.

The researchers noted that additional research is needed in order to elucidate the mechanism by which vitamin D may improve survival rates.

There are 363,000 new cases of colorectal cancer every year in Europe, with an estimated 945,000 globally. There are about 492,000 deaths from the cancer each year. Only about five per cent of colorectal adenomas are thought to become malignant, and this process could take between five and ten years.

References

  1. Ng K. et al. Prospective study of predictors of vitamin D status and survival in patients with colorectal cancer. British Journal of Cancer, 2009; 101:916–923.