There is a link between low levels of vitamin D and the development of certain cancers. This has been shown in the medical literature, some of which we will touch on in this article. Vitamin D is an important nutrient, but it is only one of many nutrients we find valuable in our comprehensive complimentary cancer programs. For those diagnosed with prostate cancer or with a family history of prostate cancer, it is important to realize that a program involving vitamin D supplementation should be discussed and developed with a complimentary care doctor well experienced in the use of vitamins in supportive cancer care. It is important that your doctor presents realistic options for you based on clinical observation and research findings and the understanding that as valuable as vitamin D can be in prostate cancer care, it should be part of a program, not a single bullet treatment.
Why the interest in vitamin D and prostate cancer? Anti-tumor properties and heightened cancer risk in vitamin D deficiency
The idea that vitamin D supplementation may assist men with prostate cancer is far from a new idea. Decades of research have speculated that there is some connection between vitamin D deficiency and prostate cancer.
In 1990, doctors at the University of North Carolina presented a hypothesis in the journal Anticancer research (1)
“Prostate cancer is a major cause of cancer death among males, yet little is known about its etiology. We hypothesize that Vitamin (Hormone) D deficiency may underlie the major risks for prostate cancer, including age, Black race, and northern latitudes (less sunlight). These factors all are associated with decreased synthesis of Vitamin D. Mortality rates from prostate cancer in the U.S. are inversely correlated with ultraviolet radiation, the principal source of Vitamin D (the less sunlight you get the more chance of prostate cancer) . This hypothesis is consistent with known antitumor properties of Vitamin D, and may suggest new avenues for research in prostate cancer.”
This paper has been cited by over 70 research papers on the links connecting vitamin D and prostate cancer. As this paper points out, research had been underway that found vitamin D has known anti-tumor properties. The connection they made was that deficiency of vitamin D robbed a man’s body of these anti-tumor properties and made men more vulnerable to prostate cancer.
Let’s start moving our research updates to 2021.
How does vitamin D work in preventing and supporting traditional oncology in prostate cancer care? Is high dose vitamin D a stand alone treatment?
In the 30 years since the above study was published, the use of high dose vitamin D supplementation remains controversial. The reason it is controversial is because there are many studies that say vitamin D supplementation IS beneficial in preventing and managing prostate cancer and there are many studies that suggest that vitamin D supplementation is NOT beneficial. The negative findings are usually studies where vitamin D supplementation is given as a stand alone treatment. This why at the onset of this article we suggested that vitamin D is not a magic bullet treatment, it needs to be part of a comprehensive program.
Let’s look at some recent research which should help clarify this information.
In May of 2018, researchers at Inova Schar Cancer Institute (2) wrote:
While vitamin D3 compounds have shown encouraging activity in pre-clinical models, single agents usually have limited effect in clinical cancer therapy.
Vitamin D3 compound-based combination therapies may be much more effective working in concert with other treatments.
This research centered on vitamin D’s ability to disrupt cancer cell signalling. Simply cancer cell’s ability to communicate within itself and its surroundings to alter its environment to make itself more comfortable and more deadly. The researchers found that vitamin D supplementation worked well with many chemotherapy drugs in disrupting cancer cell communications which lead to cancer cell death.
The many factors affecting vitamin D supplementation
While research supports that vitamin D works better with other treatments, other research suggests that many factors are in play that would diminish the impact of vitamin D on cancer.
In July 2018, in the Nature Partner Journals Precision Oncology, (3) researchers discussed the many factors that would enhance or limit vitamin D supplementation’s ability to fight cancer.
Recent clinical and population-based efficacy studies have shown the potential of nutraceuticals as potent anti-cancer agents; however, genetic alterations, social determinants, population/ethnic, and dosage variations modify the protective effect of these agents.
Current clinical and epidemiological evidence in diverse populations has not provided sufficient data to determine whether nutraceutical intervention alone or as complement agents can address therapeutic issues associated with health disparities in prostate cancer.
Some epidemiologic evidence implicate differences in prostate cancer susceptibility in diverse populations of men based on genetic variants, socio-economic, and environmental factors.
Low Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with increased risk for aggressive prostate cancer
A September 2019 study (4) published by the University of Illinois suggests that low Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with increased risk for aggressive prostate cancer and that supplementing with vitamin D may contribute to prostate cell health by supporting normal mitochondrial respiration. Basically, that vitamin D can help regulate oxygen flow to prostate cells and help them remain healthy.
In November 2019, (5) doctors in Ireland published research producing “further confirmation for how a vitamin D-based regime may be used to counter intracrine mechanisms contributing to the emergence of castrate-resistant tumors.”
A January 2021 study in the journal iScience (6) suggest how vitamin D can offer a protective mechanism
“Vitamin D is an essential steroid hormone that regulates systemic calcium homeostasis (cancer relies on “hacking” the normal calcium fueled messenger systems to send messages to create cancer cells) signals and cell fate decisions (how a cell decides what to be – this is part of cell differential, a cell can become a bone cell, a skin cell, glandular cell etc. Cancer wants to make more cancer cells so it intimidates the cells’ decision to tell them to become cancer cells.) . . . Vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased risk of lethal prostate cancer, which exhibits a dedifferentiated pathology, linking vitamin D sufficiency to epithelial differentiation. (Vitamin D sufficiency prevents cancer from hijacking cells that should become prostate epithelial basal and luminal cells.)”
At the Magaziner Center for Wellness, our comprehensive Cancer Support Program involves assessing and treating the patient as a whole instead of simply treating the disease. We utilize natural therapies that have been shown to be highly effective. It’s what we call thriving while surviving. Whereas conventional medicine uses a disease-oriented model to address cancer, we stress the importance of a health plan to support your body’s needs. Vitamin D is a complimentary care option. This means it does not treat the disease, nor cure the disease. It may help the individual with better quality of life.
If you would like to explore more information, please contact our office so we can start a conversation with you.
1 Schwartz GG, Hulka, S. Is vitamin D deﬁciency a risk factor for prostate cancer?(Hypothesis). Anticancer research. 1990;10:807-1312.
2 Trump DL, Aragon-Ching JB. Vitamin D in prostate cancer. Asian J Androl. 2018;20(3):244-252.
3 Reed D, Raina K, Agarwal R. Nutraceuticals in prostate cancer therapeutic strategies and their neo-adjuvant use in diverse populations. NPJ Precis Oncol. 2018;2:15. Published 2018 Jul 25. doi:10.1038/s41698-018-0058-x
4 Blajszczak CC, Nonn L. Vitamin D regulates prostate cell metabolism via genomic and non-genomic mitochondrial redox-dependent mechanisms. The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. 2019 Sep 28:105484.
5 Smith KW, Thompson PD, Rodriguez EP, Mackay L, Cobice DF. Effects of vitamin D as a regulator of androgen intracrinology in LNCAP prostate cancer cells. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2019;519(3):579–584. doi:10.1016/j.bbrc.2019.09.059
6 McCray T, Pacheco JV, Loitz CC, Garcia J, Baumann B, Schlicht MJ, Valyi-Nagy K, Abern MR, Nonn L. Vitamin D sufficiency enhances differentiation of patient-derived prostate epithelial organoids. Iscience. 2021 Jan 22;24(1):101974.