Is this the new silver bullet for cancer?
Vitamin D, a steroid hormone that influences virtually every cell in your body, is easily one of nature’s most potent cancer fighters. Receptors that respond to vitamin D have been found in nearly every type of human cell, from your bones to your brain.
Your organs can convert the vitamin D in your bloodstream into calcitriol, which is the hormonal or activated version of vitamin D. Your organs then use it to repair damage, including that from cancer cells.
Vitamin D is actually able to enter cancer cells and trigger apoptosis or cancer cell death. When JoEllen Welsh, a researcher with the State University of New York at Albany, injected a potent form of vitamin D into human breast cancer cells, half of them shriveled up and died within days!
The vitamin D worked as well at killing cancer cells as the toxic breast cancer drug Tamoxifen, without any of the detrimental side effects and at a tiny fraction of the cost.
Many cancer treatments cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for a course of therapies and most are well in the five-figure cost range. You can actually get perfect vitamin D levels for free if you had access to sunshine in the sub tropics year round, but even if you purchased oral supplements, a year’s worth of treatment would be well under $100.
In mice, too, cancer tumors shrank by more than 50 percent, and some altogether disappeared, when vitamin D was injected.
These findings add to the growing knowledge that vitamin D is a key player in cancer treatment and prevention. If you want to see for yourself, you can browse through over 800 references showing vitamin D’s effectiveness for cancer here.
Cancer’s Silver Bullet?
Intake of vitamin D3 and calcium could potentially prevent 58,000 new cases of breast cancer and 49,000 new cases of colorectal cancer annually in the United States and Canada, according to a complex computer prediction model.
This model also predicted that 75 percent of deaths from these cancers could be prevented with adequate intake of vitamin D3 and calcium.
Theories linking vitamin D to certain cancers have been tested and confirmed in more than 200 epidemiological studies, and understanding of its physiological basis stems from more than 2,500 laboratory studies, according to epidemiologist Cedric Garland, DrPH, professor of family and preventive medicine at the UC San Diego School of Medicine.
Dr. Garland is widely regarded as the leading epidemiologist on vitamin D and its relation to health. He led one of the latest studies on vitamin D for cancer prevention and proposed a new model of cancer development -- dubbed DINOMIT-- that is centered on a loss of cancer cells' ability to stick together.
The model is a departure from the older model of cancer development, which centers on genetic mutations as the earliest driving forces behind cancer. According to Dr. Garland:
"The first event in cancer is loss of communication among cells due to, among other things, low vitamin D and calcium levels. In this new model, we propose that this loss may play a key role in cancer by disrupting the communication between cells that is essential to healthy cell turnover, allowing more aggressive cancer cells to take over."
Vitamin D May Help Prevent 2 Million Cancer Deaths a Year!
Earlier studies have shown that optimizing your vitamin D levels could help you to prevent at least 16 different types of cancer including pancreatic, lung, ovarian, prostate, and skin cancers. But now we’re starting to see more evidence that the type of cancer in question may not be all that important, because vitamin D appears to play a key role in the development of ALL types of cancer!
Vitamin D’s protective effect against cancer works in multiple ways, including:
- Increasing the self-destruction of mutated cells (which, if allowed to replicate, could lead to cancer)
- Reducing the spread and reproduction of cancer cells
- Causing cells to become differentiated (cancer cells often lack differentiation)
- Reducing the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones, which is a step in the transition of dormant tumors turning cancerous
A study by Dr. William Grant, Ph.D., internationally recognized research scientist and vitamin D expert, found that about 30 percent of cancer deaths -- which amounts to 2 million worldwide and 200,000 in the United States -- could be prevented each year with higher levels of vitamin D!
How to Use Vitamin D to Lower Your Cancer Risk
Making sure that your vitamin D levels are optimized is one of the simplest, yet most profound, things you can do to protect your health. It will likely be many decades before health policy catches up to what the evidence has already revealed, and widespread recommendations for increased sunlight exposure and vitamin D levels become the norm.
But you don’t have to wait, as you can optimize your levels right now.
The ideal way to optimize your vitamin D level is by exposing your skin to appropriate amounts of sunlight on large areas of your skin. Unfortunately for most of you there simply isn’t enough sun exposure where you live for half of the year or more.
However, even when the sun is shining many people are modern-day cavemen and spend the majority of the day inside at work or in your home. Not many of you are regularly out in the sun.
You typically need enough sun exposure to turn your skin the lightest shade of pink. If you have enough skin exposed you will produce about 20,000 units of vitamin D. Exposures any longer than turning your skin the lightest pink will not produce any additional vitamin D and may potentially lead to premature skin aging and increase your risk of skin cancers (so don’t overdo it).
If you struggle with getting enough sun exposure during certain parts of the year, I also advise using a safe tanning bed (one that has the harmful emissions shielded) to have your own body produce vitamin D naturally.
A third option is taking a high-quality vitamin D supplement. You’ll only want to supplement with natural vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), which is human vitamin D. Do NOT use the synthetic and highly inferior vitamin D2.
A Reminder Why You Should Not Take Cod Liver Oil to Get Your Vitamin D
A few years ago, I changed my recommendation on sources of vitamin D. I previously I recommended cod liver oil as a dietary supplement to support healthy vitamin D levels. However, based on more recent findings, I have updated my recommendations regarding cod liver oil, as it may not serve you as well as previously believed.
My previous recommendation was based on the fact that cod liver oil contains vitamins D and A in addition to healthy omega-3 fats. These vitamins are essential for most everyone who cannot get regular sun exposure year-round.
But more recent research has discovered that the ratios of these two vitamins may be of paramount importance in order to extract optimal health benefits, and unfortunately, modern cod liver oil does not supply these vitamins in healthy ratios to each other.
A new study in the British Medical Journal found that vitamin A, even in relatively low amounts, appears to thwart vitamin D's association with reduced rates of cancer, in this case colon cancer.
As reported by the Vitamin D Council, the study shows that the benefits of vitamin D are almost entirely negated in those with the highest vitamin A intake. This is the largest study to date confirming vitamin A can impair vitamin D’s beneficial effects.
So in addition to not getting your vitamin D from cod liver oil, you should typically avoid synthetic vitamin A supplements along with your vitamin D either, as it appears to seriously negate its benefits.
How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?
Based on the most recent research, the current recommendation for dosage via oral supplementation is 35 IU’s of vitamin D per pound of body weight.
So for a child weighing 40 pounds, the recommended average dose would be 1,400 IU’s daily, and for a 170-pound adult, the dose would be nearly 6,000 IU’s.
Vitamin D Dose Recommendations
- Age Below 5 - Dosage: 35 units per pound per day
- Age 5 - 10 - Dosage: 2500 units
- Age 18 - 30 - Dosage: 5000 units
- Pregnant Women - Dosage: 5000 units
(WARNING:There is no way to know if the above recommendations are correct. The ONLY way to know is to test your blood. You might need 4-5 times the amount recommended above. Ideally your blood level of 25 OH D should be 60ng/ml.)
However, it’s important to realize that vitamin D requirements are highly individual, as your vitamin D status is dependent on numerous factors, such as the color of your skin, your location, and how much sunshine you’re exposed to on a regular basis.
So, although these recommendations may put you closer to the ballpark of what most people likely need, it is simply impossible to make a blanket recommendation that will cover everyone’s needs.
The only way to determine the correct dose is to get your blood tested since there are so many variables that influence your vitamin D status.
I recommend using Lab Corp in the U.S. If you get it done by Quest, you’ll need to divide your result by 1.3 to get the “real” number.
Getting the correct test is the first step in this process, as there are TWO vitamin D tests currently being offered: 1,25(OH)D and 25(OH)D.
The correct test your doctor needs to order is 25(OH)D, also called 25-hydroxyvitamin D, which is the better marker of overall D status. This is the marker that is most strongly associated with overall health.
Optimal Vitamin D Levels Explained
The “normal” 25-hydroxyvitamin D lab range is between 20-56 ng/ml. As you can see in the chart below, this conventional range is really a sign of deficiency, and is too broad to be ideal.
In fact, your vitamin D level should not be below 32 ng/ml, and any levels below 20 ng/ml are considered serious deficiency states, increasing your risk of cancer and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, just to name a few.
The OPTIMAL value that you’re looking for is 50-65 ng/ml.
This range applies for everyone: children, adolescents, adults and seniors.
Keeping your level in this range, and even erring toward the higher numbers in this range, is going to give you the most protective benefit. And the way you maintain your levels within this range is by getting tested regularly -- say two to four times a year in the beginning, and adjusting your vitamin D intake accordingly.
Please notice, also, that if you currently have cancer you will want to keep your vitamin D level in the higher 65-90 ng/ml range to help fight the disease.