A new study of 3,299 persons has shown that those with higher levels of vitamin D cut their risk of dying from cancer in half. (1) Another recent study shows that ample intake of vitamin D, about 2,000 IU per day, can cut breast cancer incidence by half. (2) Still more research found that inadequate Vitamin D is “associated with high incidence rates of colorectal cancer” and specifically urges that “prompt public health action is needed to increase intake of Vitamin D-3 to 1000 IU/day.” (3)
Vitamin D’s anticancer properties are so evident, and so important, that the Canadian Cancer Society now recommends supplementation with 1,000 IU of Vitamin D per day for all adults in winter, and year-round for persons at risk. (4)
The American Cancer Society, however, is dragging its feet, still maintaining that “More research is needed to define the best levels of intake and blood levels of vitamin D for cancer risk reduction.” (5)
What is taking them so long?
Researchers in 2006 noted that “The evidence suggests that efforts to improve vitamin D status, for example by vitamin D supplementation, could reduce cancer incidence and mortality at low cost, with few or no adverse effects.” (6)
If you search the US National Institutes of Health’s Medline online database for “cancer vitamin D,” you will find over five thousand papers. . . some dating back nearly 60 years.
It’s true: physician reports on vitamin D stopping cancer have been ignored for decades. In 1951, T. Desmonts reported that vitamin D treatment was effective against Hodgkin’s disease (a cancer of the lymphatic system). (7) That same year, 57 years ago, massive doses of vitamin D were also observed to improve epithelioma. (8) In 1955, skin cancer was again reported as cured with vitamin D treatment. (9) In 1963, there was a promising investigation done on vitamin D and breast cancer. (10) Then, in 1964, vitamin D was found to be effective against lymph nodal reticulosarcoma, a non-Hodgkin’s lymphatic cancer. (11)
The American Cancer Society has been obsessed with finding a drug cure for cancer. Pharmaceutical researchers are not looking for a vitamin cure. And when one is presented, as independent investigators and physicians have continuously been doing since 1951, it is ignored.
No longer. Michael Holick, MD, Boston University Professor of Medicine, has come right out and said it: “We can reduce cancer risk by 30 to 50% by increasing vitamin D. We gave mice colon cancer, and followed them for 20 days. Tumor growth was markedly reduced simply by having vitamin D in the diet. There was a 40% reduction in tumor size. And, casual sun exposure actually decreases your risk of melanoma. Everyone needs 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 each day.” (12)
What about safety? Yes, it is possible to get too much vitamin D, but it is not easy. “One man took one million IU of vitamin D per day, orally, for six months, “says Dr Holick. “Of course, he had the symptoms of severe vitamin D intoxication. His treatment was hydration (lots of water), and no more vitamin D or sunshine for a while. He’s perfectly happy and healthy. This was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.(13) I have no experience of anyone dying from vitamin exposure. In thirty years, I’ve never seen it.”
There are, of course, some reasonable cautions with its use. Persons with hyperparathyroidism, lymphoma, lupus erythematosus, tuberculosis, sarcoidosis, kidney disease, or those taking digitalis, calcium channel-blockers, or thiazide diuretics, should have physician supervision before and while taking extra vitamin D. And when employing large doses of vitamin D, periodic testing is advisable.
But 1,000 IU per day of vitamin D is simple and safe. Some authorities recommend much more, and many patients at the Institute for Progressive Medicine are instructed to take 5000 IU per day by their doctors (14, 15) Unfortunately, the American Cancer Society recommends less.
(1) Pilz S, Dobnig H, Winklhofer-Roob B et al. Low serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D predict fatal cancer in patients referred to coronary angiography. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008 May;17(5):1228-33. Epub 2008 May 7.
(2) Garland CF, Gorham ED, Mohr SB et al. Vitamin D and prevention of breast cancer: pooled analysis. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol, 2007. Mar;103(3-5):708-11.
(3) Gorham ED, Garland CF, Garland FC, Grant WB, Mohr SB, Lipkin M, Newmark HL, Giovannucci E, Wei M, Holick MF. Vitamin D and prevention of colorectal cancer. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2005 Oct;97(1-2):179-94.
(4) <http://www.cancer.ca/Canada-wide/About%20us/Media%20centre/CW-Media%20releases/CW-2007/Canadian%20Cancer%20Society%20Announces%20Vitamin%20D%20Recommendation.aspx?sc_lang=en >
(5) http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PED/content/PED_3_2X_Diet_and_Activity_Factors_That_Affect_Risks.asp Accessed Aug 29, 2008.
(6) Garland CF, Garland FC, Gorham ED, Lipkin M, Newmark H, Mohr SB, Holick MF. The role of vitamin D in cancer prevention. Am J Public Health. 2006 Feb;96(2):252-61.
(7) Desmonts T, Duclos M, Dalmau. [Favorable effect of vitamin D on the evolution of a case of Hodgkin’s disease.] Sang. 1951;22(1):74-5. And: DESMONTS T. [Favorable action of vitamin D in leukemic erythroderma and Hodgkin’s disease.] Pathol Gen. 1951 Mar;51(326):161-4. Also: VACCARI R. [Vitamin D2 and experimental carcinogenesis.] Boll Soc Ital Biol Sper. 1952 Aug-Oct;28(8-10):1567-9.
(8) Sainz de Aja Ea. [Case of an epithelioma in a patient treated with massive doses of vitamin D.] Actas Dermosifiliogr. 1951 Nov;43(2):169-70.
(9) Linser P. [Spontaneous cure of skin carcinoma by vitamin D treatment.] Dermatol Wochenschr. 1955;132(40):1072-3. German.
(10) Gordan GS, Schachter D. Vitamin D activity of normal and neoplastic human breast tissue. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1963 Jul;113:760-1.
(11) Desmonts T, Blin J. [Action of Vitamin D3 on the course of a lymph nodal reticulosarcoma.] Rev Pathol Gen Physiol Clin. 1964 Mar;64:137. French.
(12) Andrew W. Saul Interviews Michael F. Holick, MD, PhD. http://www.doctoryourself.com/holick.html
(13) Koutkia P, Chen TC, Holick MF. Vitamin D intoxication associated with an over-the-counter supplement. N Engl J Med. 2001 Jul 5;345(1):66-7.
(14) Vitamin D Boosts Health, Cuts Cancer Risk in Half. Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, October 3, 2007. http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v03n06.shtml
(15) Doctors Say, Raise the RDAs Now. Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, October 30, 2007. http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v03n10.shtml