Although doctors and researchers have had a number of successes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, we need to stress cancer prevention.
A case in point is prostate cancer. In Illinois, almost 10,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Many people diagnosed will have surgery, radiation and other procedures. Yet, a significant percentage of these cancers might be preventable – possibly by something as simple as taking a dietary supplement.
This cancer is more common among men living in northern climates. There is a straightforward connection between these two groups that might help to prevent prostate cancer: vitamin D.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps deposit calcium in the bone. Interestingly, vitamin D needs sunlight to become activated. Increased melatonin in the skin of African-Americans reduces the activation of vitamin D. Those living in northern climates have less overall sun exposure (and vitamin D activation).
A recent study in the medical news journal Internal Medicine World Report concluded that higher blood levels of activated vitamin D were associated with a considerably reduced risk. This data came from the Physicians Health Study, which tracked 1,082 physicians who developed and later died from prostate cancer and compared them to 1,701 other men of the same age.
What was discovered was that those with lower levels of vitamin D were at double the risk of developing prostate cancer and had three to four times the risk of contracting aggressive prostate cancer compared to the other men. Indeed, those with vitamin D levels above normal had a 45 percent reduction in the risk of ever developing prostate cancer. Men living in Asian countries, where the diet is rich in fish, have the highest levels of vitamin D and the lowest levels of prostate cancer in the world.
Considering the thousands of dollars in medical costs and personal trauma resulting from prostate cancer, it is encouraging to think that up to 45 percent of new cases could be prevented for pennies a day.
We know that vitamin D affects cell growth and can cause cancer cell death. Recent research has demonstrated that vitamin D might act at the DNA level, promoting the production of natural anti-cancer compounds like tumor necrosis factor (TNF). Higher levels of serum vitamin D might promote higher levels of natural anti-cancer compounds like TNF. Lower vitamin D levels might do the opposite.
The recommended daily dose of vitamin D is 400 IU. Higher daily doses (possibly as little as 800 IU/day) might be required for the most benefits. Although fish, fortified milk and egg yolk are sources of vitamin D, multivitamins and dietary supplements might be more convenient.
Billions have been spent in research, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. Hospitals and medical centers nationwide emphasize innovations and cutting edge therapies, very few stress prevention – and prevention is where we really need to be. Prostate cancer should not be an issue in the US, it is very easy to prevent.