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Vitamin D cuts pancreatic cancer risk

People taking vitamin D supplements can cut their risk of pancreatic cancer by nearly half, according to results from two large long-term studies.

Researchers from Harvard and Northwestern universities found that people who took 400 IU a day (the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance) of vitamin D had a 43 percent lower risk of pancreatic cancer than did those who didn't supplement. Those who took 150 IU daily had a 22 percent lower risk of the disease, which is "rapidly fatal," according to the American Association for Cancer Research. There was no identifiable benefit at doses higher than 400 IU.

"Because there is no effective screening for pancreatic cancer, identifying controllable risk factors for the disease is essential for developing strategies that can prevent cancer," said Halcyon Skinner, Ph.D., lead researcher of the study, which was published in the September issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention.

To arrive at these conclusions, researchers examined data from the Health Professionals Follow-Up study, with its 46,772 men aged 40 to 75; and from the 75,427 women aged 38 to 65 in the Nurses' Health Study. When the two populations were combined, there were 365 cases of pancreatic cancer. Researchers also studied the effects of calcium and vitamin A on pancreatic cancer but neither showed any direct association.

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