New Evidence that Vitamin D Fights Cancer

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"The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease."
- Thomas Edison

Professor asked to resign because he advocates moderate exposure to sunlight.

  For information on vitamin D, see the website of the Vitamin D Council.

Moss Reports

 

 


Cartoon source http://www.naturalnews.com/021902_sunscreen_skin_cancer.html

 



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Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D. Weekly CancerDecisions.com
Newsletter #188 06/12/05
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THE MOSS REPORTS


"There's nothing new under the sun," goes the old saying.

Well, perhaps there is. This week and next I discuss some new research that suggests that exposure to sunlight can be instrumental in improving the outcome of cancer surgery.

Vitamin D is produced in the skin in response to sunlight, and there is mounting evidence that our vitamin D status significantly influences not only our risk of developing various common kinds of cancer but also our ability to fight cancer recurrence following surgery aimed at treating existing disease.

If we listen to popular wisdom we could be forgiven for thinking that exposure to the sun's rays is entirely undesirable. For years we have been told to cover up, slather on the sunscreen and keep sun exposure to a minimum. Yet now it is becoming increasingly apparent that stringent sun avoidance may actually be harmful in its own right.

It is extremely hard, in the face of such mixed messages, for the layman to make prudent health choices. And when the choices involve the prevention and treatment of cancer, the stakes are even higher. The conflicting claims of different factions within the scientific community can render decision making infinitely more difficult even for the most well informed person.

Keeping abreast of the latest research and maintaining rigorous objectivity in weighing the worth of cancer treatments has been the guiding principle of my work in the cancer field over the past thirty years. It is my mission to provide cancer patients and their families with the most thorough analysis of current thinking on the complexities of cancer and its treatment so that they can face the disease with confidence.

The Moss Reports are a series of comprehensive guides to the best available conventional and alternative treatments for almost 200 different kinds of cancer.

If you would like to order a Moss Report for yourself or someone you love, you can do so from our website, or by calling Diane at 1-800-980-1234 (814-238-3367 from outside the US).

We look forward to helping you.


NEW EVIDENCE THAT VITAMIN D FIGHTS CANCER, PART ONE


In a world of increasingly sophisticated and expensive medical treatments, it is refreshing to find a way to improve the outcome of cancer that is both effective and inexpensive. At the 96th annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in San Francisco in April, researchers from Harvard University showed that a successful outcome for surgery to treat early-stage lung cancer is linked to the patient's vitamin D intake.

The patients' vitamin levels were calculated by assessing dietary sources, any supplements the patients took, as well as the amount of sunlight to which they were exposed. (Vitamin D is formed in the skin through the action of sunlight.) Most intriguingly, the researchers found that the time of year in which a cancer operation took place had a significant influence on the likelihood of the malignancy recurring.

For example, patients who had a high intake of vitamin D, and who also had their surgery in months when sunshine was abundant, were more than twice as likely to be alive five years after cancer surgery compared to those patients who had low vitamin D intake and who also had their operations in the winter.

This was one of the strongest indications so far of the protective, anti-cancer effect of moderate exposure to sunlight. It is also a strong argument for ensuring that you are exposed to a moderate amount of sunshine every week, especially if you are undergoing cancer treatment.

Exactly how vitamin D changes the outcome of cancer surgery is not known. But this finding jibes with many other studies showing that vitamin D inhibits a variety of different types of the disease.


Animal Studies


"Animal studies have shown that treatment of cancer with vitamin D demonstrates both anti-proliferative and anti-invasive properties," said the lead investigator, Wei Zhou, PhD, a research scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston. "But we don't know if that is true in humans with cancer. So the best way we can make some sort of association is to look at differences in what happens after treatment of cancer between patients who maintain high levels of vitamin D through their diet and supplements, as well as through sunlight exposure, compared to patients who do not.

"This study in no way suggests that people should try to time their cancer surgeries for a particular season - that would obviously be impossible," Dr. Zhou explained. "But, if validated, it may mean that increasing a patient's use of vitamin D before such surgery could offer a survival benefit."

It will certainly be hard for critics of natural medicine to pick holes in the credentials or methodology of this study. The research team was led by Prof. David Christiani, MD, of Harvard University, and included investigators from Massachusetts General Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Harvard Medical School. They looked at both disease free survival (DFS) and overall survival (OS) in 456 patients at these prestigious institutions who had early stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Patients with several different NSCLC subtypes were included in the study. Nine percent of the patients received radiation treatment following surgery, and one percent received chemotherapy.

In the 1970s, the brothers Cedric and Frank Garland of the University of California at San Diego first hypothesized that exposure to solar radiation actually led to decreased cancer incidence through the agency of vitamin D. Evidence for the health benefit of moderate sunlight continues to accumulate. Within the past year there have been two studies from the Cancer Registry of Norway, showing that patients who were diagnosed with breast, colon or prostate cancer during the summer and fall also had the lowest risk of dying from their cancer. These are the seasons in which the blood levels of serum calcidiol, also known vitamin D(3), or its derivative, calcitrol, are at their highest. The Scandinavian authors concluded that "a high level of vitamin D(3) at the time of diagnosis, and thus, during cancer treatment, may improve prognosis of the three cancer types studied" (Robsahm 2004, Moan 2005).

In an award acceptance speech at the 2005 AACR annual meeting, Prof. Edward Giovannucci, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, reported an inverse correlation between a dozen forms of cancer (including cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, pancreas, gall bladder, bile duct, and ovaries) and levels of vitamin D. These observations derive in part from work done at Kyushu University in Japan, showing that exposure to solar radiation reduces the risk of cancers of the digestive organs, even though Japanese people have a relatively high intake of dietary vitamin D through fish consumption (Mizoue 2004). Apparently, there's no substitute for Old Sol!

Actually, the correlation with sunlight and vitamin D is stronger for cancer mortality than it is for incidence, which leads William Grant, PhD, of the Sunlight, Nutrition and Health Research Center (SUNARC), San Francisco, to suggest that "vitamin D is more effective in fighting cancer once it develops rather than preventing it in the first place. This makes sense since carcinogenesis does not involve vitamin D" (Grant 2005). But since we none of us know if we are harboring hidden nests of cancer cells, it would be a good idea to obtain a moderate degree of sun exposure year round.


TO BE CONCLUDED, WITH REFERENCES, NEXT WEEK.



--Ralph W. Moss, PhD

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***


-------------------------------------------------------
Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D. Weekly CancerDecisions.com
Newsletter #189 06/19/05
-------------------------------------------------------



THE MOSS REPORTS


There can be few more difficult things in life than to come to terms with a diagnosis of cancer. The menacing nature of the disease, the urgency of the situation and the need to make decisions quickly on the basis of a vast amount of new and unfamiliar information can overwhelm even the most levelheaded person.

Keeping abreast of the latest research and maintaining rigorous objectivity in weighing the worth of cancer treatments has been the guiding principle of my work in the cancer field over the past thirty years. It is my mission to provide cancer patients and their families with the most thorough analysis of current thinking on the complexities of cancer and its treatment so that they can face the disease with confidence.

The Moss Reports are a series of comprehensive guides to the best available conventional and alternative treatments for almost 200 different kinds of cancer.

If you would like to order a Moss Report for yourself or someone you love, you can do so from our website, or by calling Diane at 1-800-980-1234 (814-238-3367 from outside the US).

We look forward to helping you.


NEW EVIDENCE THAT VITAMIN D FIGHTS CANCER, PART TWO


Last week, I began a discussion of the role of sunlight and vitamin D in the prevention and treatment of cancer. I conclude that discussion this week.

The research of Dr. Wei Zhou and his Harvard colleagues showed that:

- Patients who had cancer operations in the winter months were about 40 percent more likely to die from their cancer within five years than patients who had their cancer surgery in summer. Five year disease-free survival rates were 54 percent, 56 percent, and 70 percent, respectively, for patients who had surgery in winter, spring or fall, and summer.

- As to overall survival (in the opinion of many statisticians the most important measure of benefit), patients who had surgery in the winter were about 25 percent more likely to die than those who had their surgery in summer. Five-year overall survival rates were 50 percent, 57 percent, and 59 percent for patients who had surgery in winter, spring or fall, and summer, respectively.

When the combined effects of both the seasonal timing of surgery and vitamin D intake were considered, the researchers found an even greater degree of benefit:

- Patients with the highest vitamin D intake who had surgery in the summer had a three-fold better disease-free survival and a four-fold better overall survival than patients with the lowest vitamin D intake who had surgery during winter. The difference was statistically significant.

- The five-year disease-free survival was 83 percent versus 46 percent, respectively, and the five-year overall survival rate was 72 percent compared to 30 percent, respectively.

Dr. Zhou points out that the study was conducted on patients who had surgery in Boston, and so the calculation of surgery season may differ in other locations.

This Harvard study gives further substantiation to the claims of Professor Michael Holick, MD, PhD, of Boston University, who stated in his book The UV Advantage that people in northern latitudes (such as Boston) should get out in the sun without sunscreen for about half an hour each winter day. Many readers will remember that Prof. Holick was actually fired from his position in BU's Department of Dermatology last year for advocating such measures. (He retains his other research positions at the University.) 

Why isn't there greater knowledge of the health benefits of moderate sun exposure? "So desperate is the anti-sun lobby to convince you of the dangers of the sun so that you will buy its products year-round, the representatives will tell you with a straight face that if it's February in Boston and you're planning to walk to the corner store to buy a quart of milk or sit outside on your lunch break, you should wear sunscreen," said Prof. Holick. "This is wrong-headed and alarmist. Even on the sunniest February day, the sun isn't strong enough in New England or New York to increase your risk of skin cancer significantly... The scare tactics of the cosme-ceutical industry have been embraced by most of the dermatology profession. These groups have worked in concert and frightened the daylights out of people - or, to put it more accurately, frightened people out of the daylight" (The UV Advantage, pp. 12-13).


Summer Is A Comin' In


Now that summer is here the question of sunlight and sunscreens is one we all have to consider. Am I advocating throwing your sunblock in the trash and leading a life of Apollonian abandon? Not exactly. True, a moderate amount of sunlight is protective against several forms of internal cancer. And yes, it is a good idea to get some unguarded exposure to sunlight year round, including summer, but never, ever to the point of sunburning or blistering. (The jury is still out on the advisability of sun tanning.)


Most of us adventitiously receive sufficient sun exposure in the summertime to provide for our vitamin D needs. However, if you think you are in danger of sunburn (for example, if you plan a full day at the beach) you should definitely cover up and use sunblock to prevent extended periods of unprotected sun exposure. Excessive exposure to sunlight will in fact increase your risk of basal and squamous cell skin cancer. It will also prematurely age the skin. And if you go in the water, make sure to reapply your sunblock when you emerge onto the beach.

I prefer sunblocks that use titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide, rather than the more common sunscreen products. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide sunblocks form a physical barrier that sits on the skin's surface and are not absorbed into the body. They reflect light away from the skin, the way a mirror would, Some of these titanium or zinc-based physical sunblocks also contain antioxidants, such as vitamin C or vitamin E, to counter any stray sunlight damage to the skin. By contrast, sunscreens containing chemicals such as cinnamates and benzophenones can irritate the skin and eyes and some of their ingredients, which can be absorbed through the skin, are thought to be potentially harmful to health. Another solution is to wear sun blocking clothing and a broad-brimmed hat. Dr. William Grant of the Sunlight, Nutrition and Health Research Center (SUNARC), San Francisco, suggests maintaining a high dietary antioxidant status in order to guard against skin cancer.

A growing body of evidence indicates that adequate exposure to vitamin D, obtained through sunlight, provides some protection against several major types of cancer, including the spread of metastases from lung cancer. Moderate exposure to sunlight in the colder months is a health habit that costs nothing but a little time. In situations where direct sun exposure is impossible, many of the health benefits of vitamin D can probably be attained through dietary supplements.

Since supplements are so readily available, and so inexpensive - costing on average only three cents per day- - there is little financial incentive for anyone to prescribe or aggressively market this method of optimizing vitamin D levels. I take my (broad-brimmed) hat off to scientists such as Drs. Ed Giovannucci, William B. Grant, Michael Holick, and and Wei Zhou, who are letting the world know about this effective and inexpensive health measure.

Previous newsletter articles dealing with the controversy over Dr. Holick's views:

http://www.cancerdecisions.com/052204.html

http://www.cancerdecisions.com/053004.html

http://www.cancerdecisions.com/071104.html
 
http://www.cancerdecisions.com/082204.html



--Ralph W. Moss, PhD

=======================

Resources:


AACR Press Release. Surgery Season and Vitamin D Intake May Predict Successful Lung Cancer Surgery. April 18, 2005. Retrieved May 9, 2005 from:
http://www.aacr.org/Default.aspx?p=1066&d=367

Giovannucci, Edward, Dsc, MD. The Role of Vitamin D in Cancer Incidence and Mortality. Tenth Annual AACR-DeWitt S. Goodman Memorial Lecture. April 19, 2005. Retrieved May 10, 2005 from:
http://www.aacr.org/photoalbum/2005webcast/Webcast_19april.asp

Grant, William. Personal communication, May 10, 2005. Readers are urged to go to SUNARC'S website for new information on the relationship of UVA and UVB to cancer and other diseases.
http://www.sunarc.org/

Mizoue T. Ecological study of solar radiation and cancer mortality in Japan. Health Phys. 2004;87:532-8.

Moan J, Porojnicu AC, Robsahm TE, et al. Solar radiation, vitamin D and survival rate of colon cancer in Norway. J Photochem Photobiol B. 2005 Mar 1;78(3):189-93.

Robsahm TE, Tretli S, Dahlback A, et al. Vitamin D3 from sunlight may improve the prognosis of breast-, colon- and prostate cancer (Norway). Cancer Causes Control. 2004 Mar;15(2):149-58.

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Al Sears, MD
12794 Forest Hill Blvd.,  Suite 16
Wellington, FL 33414
December 17, 2007

I recently wrote about a report out of a university in Nebraska showing that vitamin D has the potential to lower the risk of all cancers in women by 77%.1

In the last 15 months, 5 more bombshells exploded showing the power of vitamin D to stop cancer. Here's the rest of the timeline:

  • In February, researchers at UC San Diego released the results of two key studies on breast and colon cancer. They said you can lower your risk of breast cancer by 50%, and colon cancer by more than 65%,simply by boosting your vitamin D levels through sunlight, diet, or supplements.2,3
  • In October of last year, scientists published compelling discoveries linking sun exposure and lowered cancer risk in the journal Anticancer Research. They found that plain old sunlight- about 20 minutes a day for fair-skinned folks, and two to four times that much for those with dark skin - can reduce the risk of 16 types of cancer in both men and women.4
  • A Harvard-sponsored report published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in September 2006 uncovered a connection between low vitamin D levels and increased cancer risk. It revealed that when men raise their vitamin D intake, they can lower their overall risk of cancer death by 29%, drop rates of "digestive tract" cancers by 43% (throat, stomach, and colon), and reduce death rates from these cancers by 45%.5

The response was tremendous... in Canada.  After the Creighton report last summer, the Canadian Cancer Society decided it was time to get the word out. They launched a nationwide campaign recommending that every Canadian citizen start taking 1,000 IEUs of vitamin D every day. (You should, too.) Vitamin D was flying off the shelves all over the country.

On this side of the border, the silence was deafening.

Forget about a national vitamin D awareness campaign in this country, because there isn't one. Instead, let's look at a recent report from a relatively small group, the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force. It's made up of over 100 doctors and nurses. Their goal is to inform black women about the risks of breast cancer and what they can do to prevent it.6

In Chicago, black women die from breast cancer at a rate 68% higher than white women. Yet in its 113-page report, the Task Force doesn't mention vitamin D once. This is particularly upsetting when you consider that black women are especially vulnerable to vitamin D deficiency.

Think about it: a large, vulnerable segment of the female population in the US is missing out on the biggest, most affordable cancer prevention bonanza to come along in years.

And this is just one small example of mainstream medicine's handling of cancer prevention, from a "task force" whose stated goal is to help a group especially at risk. So you can see why I think the healthcare industry is doing the American public a major disservice.

To remedy the situation, let's review what you can do to bolster your vitamin D levels and drive your risk of all kinds of cancer through the floor:

  • Eat a "D-rich" diet - fish, eggs, milk (wild-caught, free-range, and organic) all have plenty of vitamin D.
  • Take supplements - available on line or in health food stores - at least 1,000 IEUs per day.
  • Get 20 minutes of sunlight if you're fair-skinned, or up to twice that much if you're dark-skinned.

When it comes to vitamin D and cancer, it's no exaggeration to say that the American medical establishment's silence is more than deafening - it's deadly.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD

 


1. Lappe et al, "Vitamin D Status in a Rural Postmenopausal Female Population," Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2006; 25(5):395-402.
2. Garland et al, "Vitamin D and prevention of breast cancer: Pooled analysis," Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 2005; 97(1-2):179-94.
3. Gorham et al, "Optimal Vitamin D Status for Colorectal Cancer Prevention: A Quantitative Meta-Analysis," American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 32(3):210-216.
4. Grant WB et al, "The association of solar ultraviolet B (UVB) with reducing risk of cancer: multifactorial ecologic analysis of geographic variation in age-adjusted cancer mortality rates," Anticancer Research, 2006; 26:2687-2700.
5. Giovanucci et al, "Prospective Study of Predictors of Vitamin D Status and Cancer Incidence and Mortality in Men," Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2006; 98(7):451-459.
6 . "High Prevalence of Vitamin D Insufficiency in Black and White Pregnant Women Residing in the Northern United States and Their Neonates," Journal of Nutrition, 2007, 137:447-452,

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