Vitamin D “Enormous potential to beat cancer”

The last ten years has seen a huge body of research evidence showing that:

* Vitamin D is an important factor in cancer prevention.

* Vitamin D activates the immune system to work against rogue cells.

* Vitamin D has the ability to normalise and correct cancer cells.

So it boosts the immune system, could prevent cancer, AND (according to several research studies) may even help beat it.

Furthermore, it seems to play an important role in preventing illness!

Vitamin D

* Research in 2012 in Cancer Causes and Control presented findings that former/never smokers were 44 per cent less likely to die from lung cancer if they had blood levels of vitamin D above 44nmo/litre. That applied to whether or not they had cancer – it seems to prevent, and reduce deaths.

* In 2013, researchers from St Louis University showed that women with a BRCA1 mutation are more likely to develop an aggressive breast cancer but vitamin D can block this pathway. BRCA1 is not just behind breast cancer but other cancers too like some prostate cancer.

* Another 2013 study,  in the Journal of Cellular Biology showed that vitamin D blocks cathapsin L which makes cells grow uncontrollably in cancers.

 Vitamin D works like a hormone

Vitamin D could be an important ingredient in any anti-cancer package.

It comes from sunshine.

A week lying on a beach will provide about 70,000 International Units, or I.U.s.

5,000 IU’s is the daily recommended level for people with cancer. Vitamin D may sound like a vitamin, but it acts more like a hormone with receptor sites on healthy cells and even more on cancer cells.   Three of the areas in which it acts are:

  1. Low Vitamin D levels are linked with higher rates of cancer

The Boston Medical School has completed a great many research studies on vitamin D. Their Professor Hollick quotes, “If women obtained adequate levels of vitamin D there would be 25 per cent less deaths from breast cancer.

Hollick is not alone in stressing the importance for women and breast cancer.  St Georges Hospital in London calculated from their studies that women with low levels of vitamin D in their breast tissue have three and a half times greater risk of breast cancer.

  1. Immune booster

When it comes to fighting cancer, there seems little doubt about the virtues of Vit D. Many experts believe it is more like a hormone having receptor sites on both the cell and nuclear membranes – especially in cancer cells! According to research from the University of Copenhagen in 2010, when T-lymphocytes of the immune system come across a pathogen, the first thing they do is bind to a vitamin D molecule to ´activate´ themselves.

Recent studies suggest that the action of vitamin D is enhanced by vitamin K.

Unfortunately,most adults are increasingly short of both D and K vitamins.

  1. A Natural Cancer Cure?

Research published in the Journal of Cell Biology November 17, 2008; 183(4):697-710 has shown that vitamin D can adjust almost everything in the cancer cell, from its genetic messaging to its cytoskeleton. It can switch genes on and off, and it can reduce cell division, and it can calm the cancer cells so that they settle rather than spread. It seems vitamin D can actually return a cancer cell to a normal and healthy state. One pathway seems to control everything.

There is more than enough research to be clear that vitamin D could help prevent cancer.

From the latest studies, it is increasingly clear that every cancer patient should be having a daily half hour in the sunshine, or supplementing with Vitamin D.

The problem is: The sunshine factorWhen it comes to vitamin D, are you getting enough?”

Cancer charities and cancer bodies continually deliver the message that  sunshine is bad for you and that sunshine cause skin cancer, and even melanoma?

 There are several studies which show over 90 per cent of people with melanoma are deficient in vitamin D; and others which show that people who have regular exposure to sunshine develop LESS cancers! Furthermore, 2011 research showed half of melanoma is found in locations not exposed to the sun.

Vitamin that cuts risk of cancer

Two studies in the USA showed that women with the highest levels of vitamin D were up to 50 per cent less likely to develop breast cancer. One study involved St. Georges Hospital Medical School in London and US researchers at Harvard and University of California; the other was carried out by Canadian researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. Both were presented at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Washington. The doctors in the research concluded, “Women with high exposure to the sun as teenagers may be protected against breast cancer in later life, and Boosting levels of vitamin D could be beneficial at a time when breast cells are developing.”

New research draws some interesting conclusions:

  • Moores Cancer Centre at UCSD, San Diego concluded from a mega study of previous research that up to half the cases of breast cancer, and two thirds of the cases of rectal cancer in the USA could have been prevented if people had had adequate blood levels of vitamin D.

– The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology reviewed two studies concluding that women with the highest blood levels had the lowest risk of breast cancer 15 to 30 minutes in the sun every day, or 2000 IUs of supplement were recommended. One study showed that the lower blood levels of vitamin D, the more dense (and dangerous) the breast tissue.

What if you already have cancer?

Research published in the Journal of Cell Biology November 17, 2008; 183(4):697-710 has shown that vitamin D can adjust almost everything in the cancer cell and return it to the normal, healthy state. Another study has shown that vitamin D can bind to mutated cancer cell receptor sites and cause cell death.


  • Researchers at the Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health have concluded that good levels of vitamin D in the body may help people with early stage lung cancer survive longer after surgery. Patients who had surgery in the sunny summer months where vitamin D levels are higher were more than twice as likely to be alive 5 years after surgery compared with those with low vitamin D levels having winter time surgery.

Dr David Christiani said the survival differences were dramatic; the highest levels of vitamin D saw 72 per cent 5- year survivals compared with just 29 per cent for people with the lowest levels.

  • A study in September 2008, led by Pamela Goodwin, MD, Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto, research concluded that women with vitamin D deficiency at the time of breast cancer diagnosis were 94 per cent more likely to experience cancer spread and 73 per cent more likely to die over the next 10 years compared to women with adequate vitamin D levels.
  • Breast cancer cells have been shown to have vitamin D receptor sites on their surface. Since women who have had breast cancer in one breast are clearly interested in preventing breast cancer in the other, supplementation of vitamin D seems an essential part of their anti-cancer programme.

Vitamin D supplementation is being used as part of breast cancer treatment programmes in some US hospitals; it is being used in conjunction with radiotherapy in others.

What is becoming clear in all the recent scientific studies on vitamin D is that:

  • A deficiency plays a crucial role in increased risk of cancer and a number of other illnesses
  • Most people in our the Western world are deficient. This is hardly surprising as they may live in colder, rainier climates with little winter sun; they may live out of the sun – watching TV indoors and working in offices; they may even refrain from enjoying sunshine because several major charities have warned them against sunshine!
  • You can only obtain reasonable quantities of this vitamin through exposure to sunshine; a far lesser amount may be obtained through consuming oily fish. After that, other foods contribute very little. So the third option is to take supplements!

First Discoveries

In 1919 Sir Edward Mellanby was working indoors with dogs and horses during the winter and concluded that if they didn’t get sunlight they developed bone disorders. He concluded that the essential action of fats preventing these problems was due to a vitamin; and that cod liver oil was a strong preventative agent

The chemical structure of this vitamin, which he named factor X, was identified in the 1930s by Professor A Windaus. And thus vitamin D came about. Bone disorders had also been noted in humans – typically rickets in children.

Vitamin D And Bones

Vitamin D is essential for maintaining bone density and preventing osteoporosis as it helps the absorption of the bone-building materials calcium and phosphorus. In this action it is helped by magnesium.

Vitamin D and cortisol (the stress hormone) have recently been shown in the USA to be the crucial determinants in osteoporosis. Not oestrogen.

Cortisol can bind with receptor sites on bone cells normally used for natural progesterone (not natural oestrogen) and this weakens bone structure. Apart from taking HRT many doctors will advise more dairy. Dairy foods provide high levels of blood calcium (and a tiny amount of vitamin D). However this calcium surge actually depresses vitamin D levels and the bodys ability to absorb magnesium. Catch 22. Dairy gives you high blood calcium, but low bone calcium.

Much work has been done on the effect of vitamin D with bones. For example, in 1991 Tufts University, Boston showed that vitamin D was essential for improving bone density and supplementation was important in the winter months. This work was confirmed in Lyon, France in 1992 where a group taking 800 IUs of vitamin D and 1.2 gms of calcium per day had 43 per cent fewer hip fractures and 32 per cent fewer other, non-vertebral fractures. So for osteoporosis think vitamin D and a healthy intake of greens, rather than dairy and HRT supplements!

Sources of Vitamin D

Sunlight on our skin is now thought to be the main source of vitamin D. Night shift workers have lowered blood levels of vitamin D. Heavily tanned, or black people have real problems making vitamin D through the effect of sunlight in their skin. On the other hand, people with Celtic, or Type I skin (ginger hair/ freckles/ burn easily but dont tan), could be said to have skin designed to pick up on any stray bit of UV light in their northerly natural habitat. These days, though, they do tend to avoid the sun, for good reasons, but this can land them with a vitamin D shortage.

Whilst a little is found in dairy foods, the major food source is fish liver oils (omega-3 fish oil supplements dont contain much, though). Cod liver oil is unfortunately a poor source of vitamin D compared to halibut liver oil, while most of the top brands actually contain an added D supplement. Unfortunately, in order to get a useful dose of vitamin D from fish liver oil, you would simultaneously be getting an even bigger dose of vitamin A, which then can interfere with the beneficial effect of vitamin D on bone density – catch 22. (Really this is a biological, practical system of checks and balances. But its thrown out of balance by our near-universal vitamin D deficiency).

Kidney or liver disease (and alcohol) depress vitamin D levels; indeed anything that interferes with the digestion and absorption of oils and fats will – including any form of diarrhoea, diseases such as coeliac and Crohns, and pale bowel motions for whatever reason.

So also do antacids and acid-inhibitors like Zantac, cholesterol-lowering drugs (e.g. statins), mineral oils, anticonvulsants and toxic chemicals in the environment (e.g. smog).

Recommended Daily Allowance

On a sunny summer day, a young adult exposing a fair amount of skin for 15-30 minutes will manufacture about 20,000 IUs of vitamin D; this goes down with age to 10,000 IUs or less.

The best supplementation to take is vitamin D3. D3 provides vitamin D in its most usable form.

Most anticancer experts suggest people with cancer ensure that they are getting at least 2,500 IUs a day, and ideally 4,000 IUs..

What Is The Situation With Skin Cancer?

Although excess and burning sunshine can give rise to skin cancer, the charities that scare people against sunshine are doing the public a huge and dangerous dis-service.

The University of New Mexico (Journal of Nat Cancer Institute 2005, 97) has shown that its research findings conclude people with high exposure to the sun are less likely to die from melanomas. They conclude vitamin D might be the protecting factor.

Increasing levels of skin cancer and melanoma are largely due to increasing levels of  chemicals in the body and particularly on the skin, together with low levels of protective, antioxidant nutrients such as vitamins C, E, and omega-3 oils and minerals.

One research study showed that with identical women, the one on the oestrogenic contraceptive pill had twice the risk of developing melanoma. Some sun screens have had chemical ingredients banned in Scandanavia as they mimic the action of oestrogen on the skin. And melanoma is driven by oestrogen, not simply excess sun light.

Conversely, very recent evidence indicates that high blood levels of vitamin D actually help to prevent burning by speeding up tanning of the skin!

It is quite clear that everyone who is unable to achieve regular, gentle sun exposure would be well advised to supplement with a vitamin D3 supplement, at a dose of at least 400 IUs for prevention and 2,500 IUs to 4,000 IUs if they already have cancer.

There appear to be no reported contraindications with cancer drugs or cancer treatments in fact, exactly the opposite seems true.

Anybody with cancer, or at high risk of developing it, will do themselves no harm with a daily dose of up to 10,000 IUs, and may very well help themselves greatly. Some hospitals have been using vitamin D supplementation with breast cancer patients, and/or during radiotherapy, and/or as a part of a general programme of cancer therapy.

Vitamin D, are you getting enough?

If you cannot get adequate levels of daily sunshine nor eat large amounts of oily fish, then you might think seriously about Vitamin D supplements as part of your disease- prevention thinking. And if you want to supplement make sure it is the best, naturally-sourced supplement you can find.

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