Vitamin D may stymie prostate cancer

A new study suggests vitamin D supps may slow or prevent low-grade prostate cancer from progressing.

Vitamin D may slow low-grade prostate cancer according to a new, small study. One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. It’s the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, killing one in 38 men, according to the American Cancer Society. So though the study included only 37 subjects, scientists are hopeful.

Researchers looked to vitamin D as a cancer-fighting agent because of its connection to inflammation. A recent University of Colorado Cancer Center study offered compelling evidence that inflammation may be the link between vitamin D and prostate cancer in particular. "Vitamin D decreases inflammation in tissues, and inflammation is a driver of cancer," Bruce Hollis, the study's lead researcher and a professor of pediatrics, biochemistry and molecular biology at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, told U.S. News & World Report.

For the study, researchers randomly assigned 37 men who elected to have their prostate removed to receive either 4,000 IU of vitamin D or an inactive placebo daily for 60 days before their operation. Researchers examined the prostate after the surgery and found that many subjects who had taken the vitamin supplement had improvements in the prostate while the placebo group’s condition remained the same or got worse.

"In greater than 60 percent of those taking it, vitamin D actually made the cancer better," said Hollis. He reported that in some cases the tumor shrank and in others the cancer went away. However, the study was small, and results from a larger trial aren't expected for several years, he noted.

But Dr. Anthony D'Amico, chief of radiation oncology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, told U.S. News that this study was too small to reach any definitive conclusion about the value of vitamin D in fighting prostate cancer. "It's premature to make any conclusions," he said. The findings also need to be replicated in a much larger number of patients, D'Amico said.The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Denver.

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