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Increased blood levels of vitamin D may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by as much as 40 per cent, says a study that included people from 10 European countries.
The study, although not the first to show the effects of Vitamin D in lowering the risk of colon cancer is said to be the largest of its kind to date and adds to the science supporting the apparent health benefits from increased vitamin D. A meta-analysis of then existing studies published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2007 reported that higher blood levels of vitamin D were associated with a lower risk of colon cancer. Colorectal cancer accounts for nine per cent of new cancer cases every year worldwide. It remains one of the most curable cancers if diagnosis is made early.
The link between vitamin D intake and protection from cancer dates from the 1940s when Frank Apperly demonstrated a link between latitude and deaths from cancer, and suggested that sunlight gave "a relative cancer immunity". The new study used data from over half a million participants of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer Study (EPIC), the researchers analyzed dietary and lifestyle information obtained from questionnaires, and collected blood samples.
During the course of the study, 1,248 cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed and these patients were matched with 1,248 healthy controls. The EPIC data showed that blood levels of vitamin D below a mid-level of 50 to 75 nanomoles per litre were associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer said the researchers. The association was significantly stronger for colon cancer than rectal cancer, added the researchers. “Additionally, higher consumption of dietary calcium, but not dietary vitamin D, was found to be associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer,” they report. The study is published in the British Medical Journal.