Vitamin D boosts cancer survival

People with higher levels of the sunshine vitamin fare better

Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, improves the survival chances of people who have cancer, new research suggests.

People diagnosed with colon cancer who had the highest levels of vitamin D were found to be 50% more likely to survive than those with low levels.

A separate study found that people diagnosed with skin cancer had thinner tumours where their levels of vitamin D were high.

Vitamin D is derived mainly from sunlight. People in northern countries are often deficient in vitamin D during the winter months, and increasing amounts of research suggest this poses a risk to their health.

The situation has been exacerbated by warnings about sun exposure and skin cancer. Sunscreen creams reduce the amount of vitamin D made by the body.

The study of patients with colon cancer followed 1,017 patients in the US. Separate research at Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine followed skin cancer patients and found that those who had the lowest levels of vitamin D when they were diagnosed were almost a third more likely to relapse.

Prof Julia Newton Bishop, who led the study, said in the Telegraph, ‘It’s common for the general public to have low levels of vitamin D in many countries.’

People with skin cancer tend to avoid the sun because sunburn increases the risks, she said. She suggested they boost their vitamin D levels by eating oily fish – the richest food source – or taking supplements.

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