March 1, 2009 (foodconsumer.org) -- A new study published online January 20, 2009 in the British Journal of Cancer suggests that low vitamin D levels in the blood could increase risk of death from prostate cancer.
The study led by Dr. T. E. Robsahm at the Cancer Registry of Norway, Institute of Population-based Cancer Research and colleagues found prostate cancer patients who had medium or high levels of vitamin D in their blood were much less likely to die from the disease.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to high risk of at least 17 different types of cancers, according to the Vitamin D Council. And many studies have suggested that increasing serum levels of vitamin D can reduce risk of developing cancer.
For the current study, Robsahm and colleagues followed for an average of 44 months 160 patients whose vitamin D levels were tested prior to treatments. The serum level of vitamin D, namely 25(OH)D, was classified as low (less than 50 nmol/L), medium (50 to 80 nmol/L) or high (higher than 80 nmol/L).
During the follow-up, 52 patients died from prostate cancer. The researchers found serum 25(OH)D at medium or high levels were significantly associated with better prognosis. Men with medium levels were 67 percent less likely and those with high levels were 84 percent less likely to die from prostate cancer than those with the low level.
The study suggests that boosting serum levels of vitamin D by increasing exposure to sunlight or intake of dietary vitamin D may reduce the risk of prostate cancer death or prevent the disease in the first place.
The National Cancer Institute estimated that prostate cancer was diagnosed in 186,320 men in 2008 in the United States and the disease killed about 28,660 men in the same year.