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Vitamin D reduces inflammation, improves prostate cancer in 60% of men

Vitamin D

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(NaturalNews) Doses of vitamin D equivalent to those from daily sun exposure were able to slow and even cure low-grade prostate cancer in a new study conducted by researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina and presented at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Denver on March 23.

"We're treating these guys with normal body levels of vitamin D," lead researcher Bruce Hollis said. "We haven't even moved into the pharmacological levels yet."

Vitamin D, which plays an important role in bone and immune health, is produced by the body upon exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight. Prior studies have suggested that it may help prevent or even treat prostate cancer. For example, an earlier study by the same researchers found that, among men with low-grade prostate cancer who took a vitamin D supplement for one year, 55 percent had their cancers become less aggressive. Some of the tumors even disappeared.

Tumors shrank and vanished

Research has shown that many prostate cancers either cure themselves or are so slow-growing that they are unlikely to ever become dangerous. In contrast, aggressive prostate cancer can be highly lethal. For this reason, doctors use the Gleason Grading System to rank prostate tumors in regard to aggressiveness. Patients who get a Gleason score of 7 or higher are considered to have aggressive cancer and are urged to undergo immediate prostate removal surgery.

Patients with a lower score, however, are usually counseled to engage in "watchful waiting." Yet many such patients choose to have their prostates removed anyway. These patients must wait 60 days before undergoing surgery, to give their bodies a time to recover from the inflammation caused by the biopsy.

The new study was conducted on 37 men with low-grade (non-aggressive) prostate cancer who were undergoing elective prostate removal. During the 60-day waiting period, the men were randomly assigned to take either a vitamin D supplement (4,000 international units) or a placebo pill. After surgical removal, all the prostate glands were examined.

The researchers found that the prostate cancer in men given a placebo was either unchanged or had worsened. The opposite was found in the vitamin D group.

"In greater than 60 percent of those taking it, vitamin D actually made the cancer better," Hollis said.

Some of the tumors shrank, while some actually vanished completely.

In addition, the researchers found that levels of certain key lipids and proteins were also lowered in the vitamin D group, indicating less inflammation.

"Cancer is associated with inflammation, especially in the prostate gland," Hollis said. "Vitamin D is really fighting this inflammation within the gland."

One inflammation-reducing protein in particular, growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF15), had its activity dramatically increased by vitamin D. Notably, previous studies have shown that aggressive prostate tumors manufacture very little GDF15.

The anti-cancer vitamin

Further research will be needed to uncover the links between vitamin D and prostate cancer. The researchers are working on a larger trial.

"We don't know yet whether vitamin D treats or prevents prostate cancer," Hollis said. "At the minimum, what it may do is keep lower-grade prostate cancers from going ballistic."

However limited, the study adds to a growing body of research linking vitamin D to reduced cancer mortality. Indeed, as far back as 2008, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that if everybody doubled their sunlight exposure, 10 times more lives would be saved from cancer prevention than would be lost to increased fatal skin cancers.

Health experts recommend that light-skinned people in temperate climates get at least 15 minutes of unprotected daily sun exposure on the face and hands. People with darker skin might need two or three times as much; exposure should also increase with distance from the equator.







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