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Vitamin D reduces the risk of pancreatic cancer by 50%

September 25, 2014 - Vitamin D has protective effects against cancer; its therapeutic properties have been identified in fighting prostate cancer as well. It was also shown that in areas of strong sunlight incidence (corresponding to the occurrence of new cases of cancer in a population during a given period) of the prostate, breast and colon cancer, as well the corresponding rates of mortality, are much less prevalent than in areas where people are less exposed to the sun.

The beneficial effects of vitamin D in pancreatic cancer have sometimes been mentioned. Several in vitro studies have shown that normal and cancerous pancreatic tissue contains high levels of the enzyme converting the inactive form of vitamin D to its active form. Other studies have also demonstrated an inhibitory effect of cell proliferation.  

But this research is one of the first to use two large epidemiological studies on the relationship between vitamin D and pancreatic cancer as well as prostate cancer, say the members of the Halcyon Skinner team at Northwestern University.

They have indeed examined data from two large health surveys at the University of Harvard, including 46,771 men aged 40-75 years and 75 427 women aged 38-65 years. They found that regular intake of vitamin D consistent with current recommendations in the United States (400 IU / day) reduced by 43% the risk of pancreatic cancer.  Less consumption, less than 150 IU per day, reduces this risk by 22%, while a high intake, higher than the recommended daily dose, has no effect, the authors report.

"As there is no effective screening for pancreatic cancer, identifying controllable risk factors for the disease is essential for developing strategies to prevent this cancer," said Dr. Skinner.

Besides vitamin D, the researchers also measured the association between pancreatic cancer and intakes of calcium and retinol (vitamin A), but have not found a link.

Further work is needed to determine whether the nature of the vitamin D (in the form of dietary supplements or natural form, via eggs, liver, fatty fish or fortified dairy products, or through exposure important to the sun) influences the evolution of the risk of pancreatic cancer.