Vitamin D may improve colorectal cancer survival

October 02, 2009

Higher blood levels of vitamin D may double survival rates of colorectal cancer patients according to the results of a new study from Harvard researchers. People with the highest average levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-(OH)D) – the non-active storage form of the vitamin – had a cancer-specific mortality half that of people with the lowest average levels.

Furthermore, high levels of the vitamin were associated with an overall mortality level 40 % lower than people with the lowest average levels, state the Boston-based researchers led by Prof Kimmie Ng, from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Higher predicted 25(OH)D levels after a diagnosis of colorectal cancer may be associated with improved survival,” stated the researchers. 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 analysed data from 1,017 participants in the Nurses' Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study previously diagnosed with colorectal cancer. It appears to add to the potential vitamin D benefits for colorectal health by indicating that higher levels may also improve survival rates amongst people already living with the disease. The study is published in the British Journal of Cancer, Volume 101.