A new study has reported that “vitamin D inhibits cancer growth” and could reduce mortality in people with the disease by 15%, researchers have said.
Findings from the UK Biobank have detected a link between a vitamin D deficiency and a higher risk of cancer mortality, especially in those with bowel, prostate, stomach and lung cancer.
According to the scientists, taking vitamin D supplements can protect people from developing cancer due to the tablets stopping the growth of tumours by damaging DNA repair mechanisms.
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Senior author Ben Schottker said: “Our findings identified a statistically significant relationship between vitamin D deficiency and increased mortality among several cancers.
“These results can be explained by other studies, which found mechanisms by which vitamin D inhibits cancer growth and metastasis.”
Adults and children older than four years old are advised by the NHS to take a supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D every day.
More than 15% of adults and nearly 20% of children in the UK have low levels of vitamin D, the Department of Health and Social Care has reported.
Lower levels of vitamin D are more likely to occur in older adults and those from Black and South Asian communities.
During the investigation, the team of academics examined the health data of approximately 400,000 middle-aged adults.
Each participant also filled in a survey to outline their vitamin D intake, as well as how often they drink alcohol and smoke.
More than 20% of the participants had a vitamin D deficiency and 34.4% had a vitamin D insufficiency – lower levels than normal.
Only 4.1% of the participants frequently took vitamin D supplements, while 20.3% regularly took a multivitamin.
Findings have identified that cancer mortality in the people regularly taking vitamin D supplements was 15% lower than those not taking additional vitamins.
People with a vitamin D deficiency were 42% more likely to die from stomach cancer and 36% from prostate cancer, the study has identified.
Individuals with a vitamin D insufficiency were nearly 15% more at risk of dying from bowel cancer and 19% more from lung cancer, according to the results.
Dr Jenna Macciochi, senior lecturer in immunology at the University of Sussex, said: “This study adds to the growing body of evidence on vitamin D and cancer.
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“Vitamin D plays multiple key roles in immune health and the immune system is part of the body’s cancer defence system.”
She added: “With cancer rates rising and presenting a serious public health issue, its useful to have further insight into the role of vitamin D in the prevention of cancer.”
Doctoral researcher Alex Ruani said: “This research doesn’t imply that taking vitamin D3 supplements will for sure lower your risk of death from cancer.
“Supplementation may help with consistent vitamin D levels, whereas production from sunlight can be variable and dependant on weather, time of the day, exposure duration, being outdoors or indoors, protective UV wear on sunblock, and many other factors.”
She concluded: “Common food sources of vitamin D3 include full-fat dairy, egg yolks, and fish. Although toxicity is rare, there is an upper tolerable limit set in the UK, where vitamin D3 supplementation shouldn’t exceed 100 micrograms a day.”
This study has been published in Elsevier’s European Journal of Cancer.