A man’s vitamin D level may be a proverbial crystal ball that helps doctors and patients make educated choices about how aggressively to treat their cancer, according new research. Researchers from Northwestern University found that deficient vitamin D levels in men can predict aggressive prostate cancer identified at the time of surgery.
The new study provides a more direct correlation between low D and the aggressive prostate cancer than previous research. Earlier studies were based on blood drawn well before treatment. This study measured levels within a couple months before the tumor was visually identified as aggressive during surgery to remove it. Aggressive prostate cancer is cancer that has migrated outside of the prostate, or cancer with a high Gleason score (a measurement of the pattern of cancer cells that reveals how likely the cancer is to spread).
"Vitamin D deficiency may predict aggressive prostate cancer as a biomarker," lead investigator Adam Murphy, MD, an assistant professor of urology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medicine urologist, said in a university press release. "Men with dark skin, low vitamin D intake or low sun exposure should be tested for vitamin D deficiency when they are diagnosed with an elevated PSA or prostate cancer. Then a deficiency should be corrected with supplements."
All men should check their D levels, he said, as the vitamin is a biomarker for bone health and the aggressiveness of other diseases."
All men should be replenishing their vitamin D to normal levels," Murphy said. "It's smart preventive health care."
The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Researchers have been focusing on vitamin D as a cancer-fighting agent because of its connection to inflammation, a link supported by recent University of Colorado Cancer Center research.