LMU 94 – Sunshine Vitamin Shields Against Colorectal Cancer: The Vitamin D Revelation
Source: Journal of the National Cancer Institute (2018)
Lifestyle Medicine Update (July 7, 2018)
Colorectal cancer, the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in North America and many developed nations, casts a shadow over countless lives. However, the tides are turning as groundbreaking research delves into the protective potential of a humble nutrient: vitamin D. A 2018 study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute has unveiled compelling evidence, propelling vitamin D into the spotlight as a formidable guardian against colorectal cancer. In this exploration, we journey through the study’s revelations, spotlighting the profound impact of optimal vitamin D levels on cancer prevention.
A Link Between Lifestyle and Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer’s intricate dance with nutrition and lifestyle comes to the forefront. Beyond genetics, faulty nutrition and lifestyle factors weave the tapestry of this ailment. Inadequate physical activity, excess weight, smoking, and heavy alcohol consumption emerge as key players. A staggering 70-90% of cases could potentially be thwarted through prudent dietary and lifestyle choices.
The Vitamin D Vanguard: Illuminating the Role
Among various nutritional factors, the spotlight has long shone on vitamin D’s potential in preventing colorectal cancer. While preliminary studies hinted at the link, the quest for definitive data persisted. Enter a comprehensive 2018 study that amalgamated insights from 17 cohort studies, enrolling over 5,000 colorectal cancer cases and 7,000 controls. The amalgamation of these studies, tracking 12,000 individuals over an average follow-up of 5.5 years, unfurled a revelation. Individuals commencing with a blood vitamin D level exceeding 50-63 nmol/L (20 – 25 ng/mL) enjoyed a striking 22% reduction in colorectal cancer risk, in comparison to those falling within the same range.
Vitamin D Beyond Osteoporosis: A Colorectal Ally
Vitamin D’s reputation as an osteoporosis defender is well-known, advocating for blood levels between 50-63 nmol/L (20-25 ng/mL). However, the quest for colorectal cancer prevention demands a higher threshold. Achieving an additional 22% reduction in colorectal cancer risk calls for maintaining a year-round vitamin D level beyond this range. To this end, experts advise aiming for a blood vitamin D level of at least 85 nmol/L (34 ng/mL), with higher levels potentially beneficial for high-risk individuals.
Unveiling Vitamin D’s Anti-Cancer Arsenal
Venturing into the realm of scientific intricacies, vitamin D’s multi-faceted role in combating colorectal cancer emerges. Evident through human and experimental studies, its anti-cancer prowess encompasses various dimensions:
- Slowing Cell Division: Vitamin D’s hand slows the frantic pace of colon cell division, reducing genetic errors and the risk of cancerous transformation.
- Encouraging Cellular Death: Emerging cancer cells face an adversary in vitamin D, prompting programmed cell death or apoptosis.
- Nurturing Maturity: Vitamin D’s touch guides emerging cells towards full maturity, a process known as cellular differentiation, which curbs cancer susceptibility.
- Blocking Cancer Pathways: Vitamin D erects barriers against the Wnt pathway, a crucial player in colon cancer development.
- Taming Inflammation: Vitamin D’s anti-inflammatory prowess stands as a sentinel against inflammation-associated cancer risks.
- Strengthening Immunity: The vitamin’s supportive hand uplifts immune function, a pivotal aspect of cancer prevention.
- Countering Metastasis: Vitamin D reins in the synthesis of factors driving colon cancer metastasis, such as VEGF, curbing new blood vessel formation to sustain tumors.
A Clarion Call for Public Health Guidelines
The implications of the 2018 study resonate deeply, urging individuals and health agencies to reevaluate guidelines. With colorectal cancer’s menacing shadow, optimizing vitamin D levels emerges as a formidable strategy. Experts echo the call to maintain a blood vitamin D level above 63 nmol/L (25 ng/mL). Achieving this feat involves embracing nourishing practices, including consuming fish regularly, integrating vitamin D-fortified low-fat dairy products, and supplementing vitamin D. While sunlight exposure contributes, concerns about skin cancer risk make dietary and supplemental sources the preferred routes.
As science unravels the mysteries of cancer prevention, vitamin D emerges as a beacon of hope in the fight against colorectal cancer. The 2018 study’s findings pierce through the haze, revealing a tangible path towards safeguarding health. With an enhanced understanding of vitamin D’s profound anti-cancer effects, individuals are empowered to chart a course towards a brighter, healthier future. As public health guidelines undergo transformation, the chapter of colorectal cancer takes a turn towards hope and resilience, with vitamin D as its steadfast ally.
McCullough ML, Zoltick ES, Weinstein SJ, Fedirko V, Wang M et al. Circulating vitamin D and colorectal cancer risk: An international pooling project of 17 cohorts. JNCI. June 2018
Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great
Dr. James Meschino
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. James Meschino, DC, MS, ROHP, is an educator, author, and researcher having lectured to thousands of healthcare professionals across North America. He holds a Master’s Degree in Science with specialties in human nutrition and biology and is recognized as an expert in the field of nutrition, anti-aging, fitness, and wellness as well as the author of numerous books.