Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Prostate Cancer

Just in time for summer! A recent study from Northwestern University encourages us to get some sun and stock up on vitamin D…for the sake of our prostates! Research shows that low levels of vitamin D in the blood dramatically increase your risk of developing prostate cancer.

man in sunVitamin D Deficiency

We’ve been eschewing the sun for a few decades now, ever since sun exposure was called out for causing cancer.  And now, we’re dealing with the consequences. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to depression, a higher incidence of bone fractures, and even an increased risk for certain cancers, the latest being prostate cancer.

Researchers tested 275 European-American men and 273 African-American men between the ages of 40 and 79. All the men underwent an initial biopsy after testing abnormal on either a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) or digital rectal examination (DRE) test. Researchers also measured the levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OH D) in their blood. Results were astounding:

  • African-American men were 4.89 times more likely to develop prostate cancer
  • European-American men with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 3.66 times more likely to develop prostate cancer
  • African-American men were 4.22 times more likely to develop an aggressive late-stage tumor called T2b that’s isolated in the prostate
  • European-American men with the lowest levels of D were 2.42 times as likely to have the T2b tumor
  • African-American men had lower levels of vitamin D in the blood overall

The conclusion? Vitamin D deficiency can significantly increase your risk of developing prostate cancer!

How Does Vitamin D Help Regulate Cancer?

While you can get vitamin D from food (oily coldwater fish like salmon) and vitamin D3 supplements, your best source of D is from the sun. When sun rays hit your skin, your skin cells produce vitamin D, which is then released into the bloodstream. Your liver manufactures a vitamin D metabolite called 25-vitamin D that helps all the cells in your body utilize vitamin D for their particular needs.

Vitamin D helps prevent cancer by controlling cell growth. It influences the P53 gene, which is responsible for millions of daily cell replications. Vitamin D prevents unregulated cell growth before malignant cancer cells can divide and spread. When you’re vitamin D deficient, cancer cells proliferate unchecked.

Who’s At Risk?

Everyone who doesn’t get adequate sun exposure! Vitamin D exposure depends on your skin color and absorption ability. A fair-skinned redhead can get enough vitamin D from five minutes spent in the noontime sun. Darker-skinned individuals (like African-American men) have more melanin in their skin, which blocks the rapid absorption of vitamin D. They require a lot more time in the noontime sun to reach adequate vitamin D levels.

By all means, protect your skin and know your limits! If it takes you 30 minutes to get slightly pink, then spend 15 minutes sunscreen free in the sun two to three times a week. Any more time than that puts your skin at risk. Your sun exposure times will vary according to the color of your skin and your latitudinal location. For more information on vitamin D and sun exposure check out the book, The Vitamin D Solution, by Dr. Michael Holick.