12 January - 20 June 2016

Higher levels of vitamin D are associated with a reduced risk of cancer

Multiple studies have reported an inverse association between serum vitamin D concentrations and cancer risk. A study published in the journal PLOS ONE by researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, has investigated what blood level of vitamin D is required to effectively reduce cancer risk (except skin cancer) in women aged 55 and older.

Multiple studies have reported an inverse association between serum vitamin D concentrations and cancer risk.  A study published in the journal PLOS ONE by researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, has investigated what blood level of vitamin D is required to effectively reduce cancer risk (except skin cancer) in women aged 55 and older.

McDonnell et al. used data from two cohorts, a randomised clinical trial by Lappe et al. of 1169 women and a prospective cohort study namely GrassrootsHealth Cohort of 1135 women from 52 countries. 

The Lappe cohort, a four year, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of vitamin D and calcium supplementation, recruited women without known cancer on enrolment or 10 years prior.  Women were randomly assigned to consume either calcium (either 1400 mg/day calcium citrate or 1500 mg/day of calcium carbonate plus a vitamin D placebo), calcium and vitamin D (calcium as reported earlier plus 1000 IU/day of vitamin D3) or a control.  Vitamin D levels were measured at baseline and annually. Diagnosis of cancer were reported and confirmed by analysis of a participant’s medical records. Median follow up was 4 years.

The GrassrootsHealth Cohort recruited women without known cancer at enrolment or 10 years prior.  The women completed health questionnaires and home blood spot tests (to measure serum 25(OH)D) at 6 month intervals.  Cancer diagnosis dates were reported, as well as parameters such as calcium supplementation, smoking, and BMI.  Median follow up time was 1.2 years.

Using the data from these two cohorts, McDonnell et al. calculated mean 25(OH)D concentrations, and outcome.  The team investigated the association between serum vitamin D levels and risk of developing cancer, after making adjustments for age, BMI, smoking status and calcium supplement intake.  In the Lappe cohort, the median blood serum level of 25(OH)D was 30 ng/ml (baseline 28 ng/ml). In the GrassrootsHealth Cohort, it was higher: 48 ng/ml (baseline 43 ng/ml). Fifty-eight women were diagnosed with cancer during follow-up (48 from the Lappe cohort and 10 from the GrassrootsHealth Cohort).  The scientists report that for age-adjusted cancer incidence across both cohorts there were 840 cases per 100,000 person-years. Women with 25(0H)D concentrations of 40 ng/ml or over had a 67% lower risk of cancer than women with concentrations of less than 20 ng/ml.  Women assigned to the calcium treatment group did not have a significant reduction in cancer risk compared to those in the control group.  However as the scientists only investigated calcium supplementation, and dietary calcium intake was unavailable, the team state: “it is possible that dietary calcium intake may play a role in cancer risk.”

McDonnell et al. report that after multiple types of analysis, their results show the importance of vitamin D for prevention of cancer.  The authors state: “Increasing 25(0H)D concentrations to a minimum of 40 ng/ml could substantially reduce cancer incident and associated mortality in the population based on these finding as well as other studies.” 

RSSL provides vitamin analysis in a wide range of matrices including drinks, fortified foods, pre-mixes and multi-vitamin tablets, including the analysis for Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3.  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

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