Vitamin D helps colon cancer patients stay alive

June 19th, 2008 - 1:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 19 (IANS) Colon cancer patients having enough vitamin D were less likely to die during a follow-up period than those who lacked the vitamin, a new study has found. The authors of the study have pointed out that previous research has shown that higher levels of vitamin D reduces the risk of developing colon and rectal cancer by about 50 percent, but the effect on outcomes wasn’t known.

Investigators, led by Kimmie Ng and Charles Fuchs of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, analysed data from two long-running epidemiological studies where participants gave blood samples and whose health has been monitored for many years.

They identified 304 participants who were diagnosed with colorectal cancer between 1991 and 2002.

All of them had their vitamin D levels measured in blood samples given at least two years prior to their diagnosis.

Each patient’s vitamin D measurement was ranked by “quartiles” - the top 25 percent, the next 25 percent, and so on. Those whose levels were in the lowest quartile were considered deficient in vitamin D.

The researchers followed the 304 patients until they died or until 2005, whichever occurred first. During that period, 123 patients died, with 96 of them dying from colon or rectal cancer.

The researchers then looked for associations between the patients’ previously measured vitamin D blood levels and whether they had died or survived.

The results showed that individuals with the vitamin D levels in the highest quartile were 48 percent less likely to die (from any cause, including colon cancer) than those with the lowest vitamin D measurements.

The odds of dying from colon cancer specifically were 39 percent lower, the scientists found.

The findings - the first to examine the effect of vitamin D among colorectal cancer patients - merit further research, but it is too early to recommend supplements as a part of treatment, said the investigators.

These findings are slated to be published in the forthcoming issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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