Vitamin D may cut pancreatic cancer risk by nearly half

September 12, 2006

PHILADELPHIA -- Consumption of Vitamin D tablets was found to cut the risk of pancreatic cancer nearly in half, according to a study led by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard universities.

The findings point to Vitamin D's potential to prevent the disease, and is one of the first known studies to use a large-scale epidemiological survey to examine the relationship between the nutrient and cancer of the pancreas. The study, led by Halcyon Skinner, Ph.D., of Northwestern, appears in the September issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention.

The study examined data from two large, long-term health surveys and found that taking the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance of Vitamin D (400 IU/day) reduced the risk of pancreatic cancer by 43 percent. By comparison, those who consumed less than 150 IUs per day experienced a 22 percent reduced risk of cancer. Increased consumption of the vitamin beyond 400 IUs per day resulted in no significant increased benefit.

"Because there is no effective screening for pancreatic cancer, identifying controllable risk factors for the disease is essential for developing strategies that can prevent cancer," said Skinner.

"Vitamin D has shown strong potential for preventing and treating prostate cancer, and areas with greater sunlight exposure have lower incidence and mortality for prostate, breast, and colon cancers, leading us to investigate a role for Vitamin D in pancreatic cancer risk. Few studies have examined this association, and we did observe a reduced risk for pancreatic cancer with higher intake of Vitamin D."

Skinner, currently in the Department of Population Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and his colleagues analyzed data from two long-term studies of health and diet practices, conducted at Harvard University. They looked at data on 46,771 men aged 40 to 75 years who took part in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, and 75,427 women aged 38 to 65 years who participated in the Nurses' Health Study. Between the two studies, they identified 365 cases of pancreatic cancer. The surveys are considered valuable for their prospective design, following health trends instead of looking at purely historical information, high follow-up rates and the ability to enable researchers like Skinner to incorporate data from two independent studies.

Pancreatic cancer is a rapidly fatal disease and the fourth-leading cause of death from cancer in the United States. This year, the American Cancer Society estimates that 32,000 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed. About the same number of people will die this year from the disease. It has no known cure, and surgical treatments are not often effective. Except for cigarette smoking, no environmental factors or dietary practices have been linked to the disease.

In addition to Vitamin D, the researchers also measured the association between pancreatic cancer and the intakes of calcium and retinol (Vitamin A). Calcium and retinol intakes showed no association with pancreatic cancer risk, although retinol is an antagonist of Vitamin D's ability to influence mineral balances and bone integrity.

For that reason, further research is necessary to determine if Vitamin D ingestion from dietary sources, like eggs, liver and fatty fish or fortified dairy products, or through sun exposure might be preferable to multi-vitamin supplements, which contain retinol.

The potential benefits of vitamin D for pancreatic cancer were only recently established by other laboratory studies. Normal and cancerous pancreas tissue contain high levels of the enzyme that converts circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D into 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, the vitamin's active form. Other studies have shown an anti-cell proliferation effect of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, potentially inhibiting tumor cells.

"In concert with laboratory results suggesting anti-tumor effects of Vitamin D, our results point to a possible role for Vitamin D in the prevention and possible reduction in mortality of pancreatic cancer. Since no other environmental or dietary factor showed this risk relationship, more study of Vitamin D's role is warranted," Skinner said.
-end-
Skinner's colleagues in the study include Dominique Michaud, Edward Giovannucci, Walter Willett and Graham Colditz of Harvard, and Charles Fuchs of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, AACR is the world's oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes more than 24,000 basic, translational, and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and more than 60 other countries. AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. It funds innovative, meritorious research grants. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts over 17,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field. Special Conferences throughout the year present novel data across a wide variety of topics in cancer research, treatment, and patient care. AACR publishes five major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; and Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Its most recent publication, CR, is a magazine for cancer survivors, patient advocates, their families, physicians, and scientists. It provides a forum for sharing essential, evidence-based information and perspectives on progress in cancer research, survivorship, and advocacy.

American Association for Cancer Research

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.