Vitamin D Can Protect Against Cancer

A new study by Dana-​Farber Cancer Institute investigators demonstrates thatåÊVitamin D can protect some people with colorectal cancer by perking up the immune system‰Ûªs vigilance against tumor cells. The research, published by the journal Gut, represents the first time that a link between vitamin D and the immune response to cancer has been shown in a large human population. The finding adds to a growing body of research showing that vitamin D ‰ÛÒ known as the ‰ÛÏsunshine vitamin‰Û because it is produced by the body in response to sunlight exposure ‰ÛÒ plays a key role in cancer prevention.

‰ÛÏPeople with high levels of vitamin D in their bloodstream have a lower overall risk of developing colorectal cancer,‰Û said the study‰Ûªs senior author, Shuji Ogino, MD, PhD, MS, of Dana-​Farber, Harvard School of Public Health, and Brigham and Women‰Ûªs Hospital. ‰ÛÏLaboratory research suggests that vitamin D boosts immune system function by activating T cells that recognize and attack cancer cells. In this study, we wanted to determine if these two phenomena are related: Does vitamin D‰Ûªs role in the immune system account for the lower rates of colorectal cancer in people with high circulating levels of the vitamin?‰Û

Ogino and his colleagues theorized that if the two phenomena were connected, then people with high levels of vitamin D would be less likely to develop colorectal tumors that are permeated with large numbers of immune system cells. Colorectal tumors that do develop in these individuals would, by the same logic, be more resistant to the immune response.

To determine if this is indeed the case, the research team drew on data from 170,000 participants in the Nurses‰Ûª Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-​up Study, two long-​term health-​tracking research projects. Within this population, researchers compared carefully selected groups of 318 colorectal cancer patients and 624 individuals who were free of cancer. All 942 of them had blood samples drawn in the 1990s, before any developed cancer. The investigators tested these samples for 25-​hydroxyvitamin D, (abbreviated 25(OH)D), a substance produced in the liver from vitamin D.

They found that patients with high amounts of 25(OH)D indeed had a lower-​than-​average risk of developing colorectal tumors that were enriched with immune system cells.

‰ÛÏThis is the first study to show evidence of the effect of vitamin D on anti-​cancer immune function in actual patients, and vindicates basic laboratory discoveries that vitamin D can interact with the immune system to raise the body‰Ûªs defenses against cancer,‰Û Ogino said. ‰ÛÏIn the future, we may be able to predict how increasing an individual‰Ûªs vitamin D intake and immune function can reduce his or her risk of colorectal cancer.‰Û

AudienceSCAN research reports 25.6% of consumers regularly support cancer research/​prevention with their time or money. 43.6% are men. 21% are aged 25 to 34. 40.5% bring home between $50,000 and $100,000 per year. They like attending sporting events (51.5%).

Cancer prevention supporters are reading the newspaper, so try reaching them there ‰ÛÒ 70% took action after reading an ad in the paper. Magazines could be effective too, with 22% starting online searches after reading one. 57% agree that they would shop at a different store to support an important cause/​charity. 78% of this audience plans to shop at drugstores this year. Could they be looking for vitamin D?

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the Audience Intelligence Reports inåÊAdMall.

Courtney Huckabay
Courtney is the Editor for SalesFuel Today. She analyzes secondary customer research and our primary AudienceSCAN research. Courtney is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University.