Vitamin D: 12 percent fewer cancer deaths
Vitamin D supplements may not have the ability to prevent the development of cancer, but they seem to lower the chances of mortality from cancer. However, the crucial factor lies in the frequency of intake, whether it is taken daily or monthly.
While the primary association of vitamin D is with its role in strengthening bones, we now understand that the various forms of this group of fat-soluble compounds also participate in other vital metabolic processes.
Moreover, vitamin D3 actively regulates the functioning of multiple genes. Medical professionals speculate that maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D3 could potentially influence the onset of several chronic illnesses, including cancer.
Vitamin D deficiency common in cancer patients
In fact, cancer patients commonly exhibit a deficiency in vitamin D3. For instance, in a study involving colorectal cancer patients, researchers found that 59 percent of the participants were diagnosed with a deficiency in vitamin D3, whereas in the general population, this figure is only 15 percent. It was also observed that colon cancer patients with insufficient levels of vitamin D3 had a less favourable prognosis for the progression of the disease.
Considering these findings, the question arises: can vitamin D intake provide protection against cancer? The current state of research does not provide a clear answer. Consequently, researchers at the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ) undertook a re-evaluation of this hypothesis. They conducted an analysis of 14 high-quality studies, involving a total of nearly 105,000 participants, in order to shed more light on this matter.
No protection against illness – but protection against mortality is possible
According to the current state of research, it is likely that the intake of vitamin D3 does not provide protection against the development of cancer. However, it appears to lower the risk of death from cancer, as stated by Ben Schöttker, an epidemiologist at the German Cancer Research Centre.
Upon initial analysis, no significant disparities were observed between participants who received vitamin D3 supplements and those who were administered a placebo.
12 percent fewer cancer deaths
There was a notable shift when the researchers made a distinction between a daily low dosage of vitamin D3 (ranging from 400 to 4000 international units, IU) and the administration of high monthly single doses (60,000 to 120,000 IU, or even less frequently). The findings were as follows:
A daily intake of vitamin D reduced the risk of cancer-related mortality by 12 percent. However, individuals who received vitamin D infrequently but in high doses did not experience the same benefit in terms of cancer mortality.
The continuous intake of vitamin D through daily supplementation ensures a consistent biological availability of the hormone, unlike the administration of high single doses. This could explain why daily intake reduces the risk of cancer-related death, whereas high single doses do not yield the same outcome.
It is noteworthy that the 12 percent reduction in cancer mortality was observed in groups that included individuals with and without explicit vitamin D deficiency. Consequently, it can be assumed that the effect is even more significant for those who actually have a vitamin D deficiency, as stated by Schöttker.
The greatest benefit from vitamin D3 therapy was observed among individuals over the age of 70. Furthermore, the effect was most pronounced when individuals had initiated vitamin D supplementation before their cancer diagnosis.
Slowed tumour growth?
Behind the life-saving effect is apparently the hormone 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, which is formed in the body through reactions of vitamin D3. The researchers suspect that the hormone can inhibit tumor growth and thus reduce cancer mortality.
15 tips to protect against cancer
- Halve the risk of cancer
A diagnosis of cancer can affect anyone. It often occurs purely by chance due to an error in cell division. But with a healthy lifestyle, you can halve your risk of cancer. Read the 15 tips on how to prevent tumours here.
- Go for whole grains!
A simple but effective tip to protect against cancer: Eat whole grain products! It doesn’t matter whether it’s wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta or wholegrain rice – they all provide you with plenty of fibre. And they, in turn, have been proven to protect against colon cancer – the third most common form of cancer in this country.
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly
Fruits and vegetables are healthy – experts recommend eating five servings a day. Nevertheless, danger sometimes lurks in the form of pesticides. They are intended to protect the harvest from insects, fungi and the like. However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), some of them, like glyphosate, are carcinogenic. Therefore: Wash the food thoroughly before consumption.
- Meat in moderation
The WHO has classified red meat, such as beef, pork or lamb, as carcinogenic. Processed red meat in particular is considered to be problematic, while poultry meat is less of a concern. You don’t have to give up meat completely, but you should keep your consumption low, say experts.
- Gild instead of charred
When you heat foods containing carbohydrates, acrylamide is formed. The substance is found, for example, in chips, fries or burnt bread in abundance – but also in many other foods such as crispbread, biscuits and coffee. In animal experiments, the substance has a carcinogenic effect. As a rule of thumb, consumer advocates therefore recommend “gilding instead of charring” – so avoid deep-frying and excessive browning when baking and roasting.
- Get vaccinated!
Unfortunately, you cannot be vaccinated directly against cancer. Nevertheless, some vaccinations serve to prevent cancer. This includes, for example, the hepatitis B vaccination, which is intended to protect you against liver inflammation and thus against liver cancer in the long term. Teens are also advised to get vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) to protect against cervical cancer.
- HIV protection is also cancer prevention
Not only human papilloma viruses make the body more susceptible to cancer, but also human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV) – the pathogens that cause AIDS. They weaken the immune system and promote chronic inflammation in the body. Both promote cell changes and tumour development. Anyone who practices safer sex benefits in several ways.
- Very little alcohol
Alcohol promotes various cancers, such as liver and pancreatic cancer. German recommendations are a maximum of half a litre of beer or a quarter of a litre of wine (approx. 20g alcohol) for men and a maximum of half (approx. 10g alcohol) for women per day – and preferably not every day. But it can also be less alcohol or no alcohol at all. Experts point out that there is no amount that is safe to consume.
- Quitting smoking is good for the lungs
Cigarettes also increase the likelihood of developing cancer – by a factor of 20 to 30! But a combination of alcohol and tobacco consumption is particularly dangerous, experts warn. They suspect that the risks do not simply add up but reinforce each other.
- Holidays, yes – sunbathing, no
Vacation means relaxation. You should treat yourself to that. But beware: Sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer – especially in children. Even if you don’t get sunburned, UV rays can damage your skin. It is best to stay mostly in the shade, cover your body with light clothing and protect your skin with sunscreen. You should avoid solariums, as well as intensive sunbathing.
- Athletic and of normal weight
Do you exercise and keep your weight normal? Congratulations! Both protect you against some of the most common types of cancer, such as breast and colon cancer. The WHO advises getting at least two and a half hours of moderate exercise or just over an hour of strenuous exercise per week. Whether endurance, strength, ball sports or physical work – choose what suits you best!
- Low-emission home
Asbestos was used frequently in the past. But the fibers can cause tumours in the pleura and pleura, the lungs and the larynx. The radioactive noble gas radon, which occurs in nature in varying concentrations, can also cause lung cancer. Therefore, have the pollution levels in your home examined. If necessary, you can find out more about the best measures for renovation from the municipal building or environmental authorities.
- Breastfeed your child
As a mother, breastfeed your child if possible – this is good for you too. Because breastfeeding not only promotes the health of the child and the mother-child bond, it also reduces the mother’s risk of cancer. Studies have shown that early pregnancy, multiple births and prolonged breastfeeding protect against breast cancer.
- Cost-benefit calculation for the pill
The “pill” is the safest contraceptive. It has a partly positive and partly negative effect on the risk of cancer: pills with estrogens and progestins protect against uterine and ovarian cancer. However, they increase the risk of breast cancer, cervical carcinoma and liver tumours – even if only in the However, there is also the risk of a stroke that the pill increases – especially in smokers. You should also consider this when making your decision.
- Don’t miss screening tests
Even the healthiest lifestyle does not offer 100 percent protection against cancer. Especially if there was already cancer in your family, you should use examinations for early detection such as mammograms or colonoscopies. The earlier a cell change is discovered, the better it can be treated.
The onset of vitamin D deficiency
Medical professionals typically define a true vitamin D deficiency when the blood levels drop below a threshold of 30 nanomoles per litre (nmol/L). However, individuals with levels below 50 nmol/L are also considered to have inadequate vitamin D supply.
Furthermore, the current level of vitamin D in the body is heavily influenced by the season. Since sunlight is necessary for vitamin D synthesis, the body can only produce an adequate amount between March and October.
However, this timeframe applies primarily to individuals who spend sufficient time outdoors. As a general guideline, experts recommend exposing the uncovered face, hands, and arms without sunscreen for approximately 10 minutes, two to three times a week during this period. This duration should be sufficient to accumulate the necessary vitamin D reserves in the fatty tissue for the winter season.
Vitamin D deficiency prevalence varies across different countries due to a combination of factors including geographical location, climate, cultural practices, dietary habits, and sunlight exposure patterns. Here are some examples of vitamin D deficiency rates in different countries:
- United States: Vitamin D deficiency is relatively common in the United States, with studies suggesting that around 40% to 50% of the population has insufficient levels of vitamin D.
- United Kingdom: Vitamin D deficiency is also prevalent in the United Kingdom, particularly during the winter months when sunlight exposure is limited. It is estimated that around 20% to 30% of the population in the UK has low vitamin D levels.
- India: Despite being a sunny country, vitamin D deficiency is widespread in India. The prevalence varies across different regions, but studies indicate that approximately 50% to 90% of the population in India may have insufficient levels of vitamin D.
- Australia: Australia has a relatively lower prevalence of vitamin D deficiency compared to some other countries. However, certain population groups such as older adults, those with limited sun exposure, and individuals with darker skin are still at risk of deficiency.
- Nordic countries: Countries in northern Europe, such as Sweden, Norway, and Finland, experience long winters with limited sunlight exposure. Consequently, the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency tends to be higher in these countries.
- United Arab Emirates (UAE): The UAE, despite its abundant sunshine, has a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency. Studies have indicated that approximately 60% to 90% of the population in the UAE may have insufficient levels of vitamin D. Factors such as limited sun exposure, cultural practices, and clothing choices contribute to this high prevalence.
In conclusion, vitamin D deficiency is a global health concern that can be observed in various countries around the world. Factors such as limited sun exposure, cultural practices, dietary habits, and geographical location contribute to the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency.
Studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency is particularly common in certain regions, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where despite ample sunshine, a significant proportion of the population has insufficient levels of vitamin D. Similar trends can be observed in other countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, India, and others.
Addressing vitamin D deficiency requires a multifaceted approach, including promoting sun exposure in a safe and controlled manner, especially during optimal times of the day, encouraging dietary sources rich in vitamin D, and considering vitamin D supplementation when necessary. Regular screening for vitamin D levels and tailored interventions can help mitigate the risks associated with deficiency.
It is important for individuals to consult with healthcare professionals for personalized advice based on their specific circumstances, as the optimal strategies for addressing vitamin D deficiency may vary depending on factors such as age, health status, geographic location, and cultural practices.