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Vitamin D Levels and Mortality Risk

Posted 6/21/2014

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  This is an interesting and provocative study from the BMJ (the link to that full open access article is available from the link I will post further on) that suggests that low Vitamin D levels may increase the risk of mortality for people who have had cancer.

  There are all sorts of caveats attached to this: it is a single study, much of the population was elderly, uncertainty whether Vit D may be linked to multiple cancers or specific cancers or inflammatory processes, etc. However, it is worth your consideration and, perhaps, a conversation with your doctor. It is easy enough to check your Vit D levels with a blood test. When I did that over the winter, mine was quite low (pretty common in New Englanders in March!), so I took rather hefty prescription level Vit D tablets for some weeks. I am now on a normal low daily dose and will have bloods checked again soon. This is to say that it may or may not turn out to make a cancer difference, but it is an easy fix without any downsides.

  From Medscape, here is a summary that includes the previously mentioned link.

D Levels Linked to Cancer Death Risk Only in Survivors
Neil Osterweil

All-cause mortality was 1.57 times higher among older adults in the lowest quintile of 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] level, but cancer-related deaths were significantly higher only among persons in that grouping with a history of cancer.
The study also showed, however, that levels of 25(OH)D are all over the map, varying considerably by country, sex, and  time of year, note Ben Schöttker, PhD, from the Division of Clinical Epidemiology and Aging Research at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, and colleagues.
"Results from a long term randomized controlled trial addressing longevity are being awaited before vitamin D
supplementation can be recommended in most individuals with low 25(OH)D levels," they write in a BMJ open-access study published online.
In an interview with Medscape Medical News, coauthor Paolo Boffetta, MD, MPH, director of the Institute for
Translational Epidemiology and professor of hematology and medical oncology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, said that the investigators are not sure why they saw an effect of vitamin D only in patients with a history of cancer.

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