In the US, Prostate Cancer is the most common non-skin cancer, and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men. It is also the most treatable! Early detection is key. Developing new prevention and treatment strategies are also critical to improving the health of men. If you weren’t already impressed with vitamin D’s potent powers from last week’s blog, Get Your D UP, this week we’re dedicating vitamin D’s charm to it’s prostate cancer fighting and prevention powers.
A recent 2016 study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, shows a major link between low levels of vitamin D and aggressive prostate cancer in men undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous prostate (radical prostatectomy).
Although there are dozens of previous studies showing a strong association between low Vitamin D levels and Prostate Cancer, prior studies were based on blood drawn well before treatment (surgery or radiation). This new Northwestern study has gotten particular attention in the medical community as it provides an even more direct correlation because it measured Vitamin D levels within a couple months before the tumor was visually identified as aggressive during surgery to remove the prostate. This critical detail makes the very powerful anti-cancer effects of vitamin D very hard to ignore.
The finding is exciting and empowering, offering guidance to men and their doctors who may be considering 'watchful waiting' or 'active surveillance', in which they monitor the cancer rather than remove the prostate. Side effects of surgical treatment include impotence, loss of bladder control, and bowel problems, making the decision to remove the prostate difficult. Fortunately, since most prostate cancers found are small and slow growing, and therefore nonfatal, surgical removal many times is unnecessary. On the other hand, men with faster growing prostate cancer will benefit more from early treatment. It is important to speak to your doctor to discuss screening and your best treatment options, now also including vitamin D!
“All men should be replenishing their vitamin D to normal levels” “It’s smart preventive health care,” said lead investigator Dr. Adam Murphy, an assistant professor of urology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medicine urologist. “Men with dark skin, low vitamin D intake or low sun exposure should be tested for vitamin D deficiency when they are diagnosed with an elevated PSA or prostate cancer. Then a deficiency should be corrected with supplements. “
For those without the diagnosis or elevated PSA(prostate specific antigen), why wait? Vitamin D has repeatedly proven its anti-cancer effects without increasing any side effects. Vitamin D’s role in the treatment and prevention for prostate cancer is here to stay. I recommend all men have their levels checked and supplemented when necessary. After all, prevention is the best medicine!
For those of you interested in the details and specifics, the study was part of a larger ongoing study of 1,760 men in the Chicago area examining Vitamin D and Prostate Cancer. The current study included 190 men, average age of 64, who underwent a radical prostatectomy to remove their prostate from 2009 to 2014.
87 men of the current study group had aggressive prostate cancer*. Those with aggressive cancer had a median level of 22.7 nanograms per milliliter of vitamin D, significantly below the 'normal' level of more than 30 nanograms/milliliter(refer to Get Your D UP post on optimal levels). The average D level in Chicago during the winter is about 25 nanograms/milliliter, Murphy noted.
*Aggressive prostate cancer is defined by whether the cancer has migrated outside of the prostate and by a high Gleason score. A low Gleason score means the cancer tissue is similar to normal prostate tissue and less likely to spread; a high one means the cancer tissue is very different from normal and more likely to spread.
Yaw A. Nyame et al. Associations Between Serum Vitamin D and Adverse Pathology in Men Undergoing Radical Prostatectomy. J Clin Oncol., doi:10.1200/JCO.2015.65.1463, published online 22 February 2016, abstract. Northwestern University news release, accessed September 2016.
Zhao XY, Feldman D. The role of vitamin D in prostate cancer. Steroids. 2001 Mar-May;66(3-5):293-300. abstract
Additional source: CDC Prostate Cancer
Additional source: Vitamin D Council Prostate Cancer
Additional source: NIH National Cancer Institute PSA
Additional source: Prostate Cancer Foundation