WebMD Medical News
Louise Chang, MD
Dec. 7, 2009 -- Healthy levels of vitamin D may help patients with a certain
type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma live longer.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have discovered that patients with diffuse
large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) and low vitamin D levels are two times more
likely to die from the cancer than patients with optimal levels. Deficient
vitamin D levels also increased the chances of cancer progression.
"These are some of the strongest findings yet between vitamin D and cancer
outcome," Matthew Drake, MD, PhD, an endocrinologist at Mayo Clinic in
Rochester, Minn., says in a news release. "While these findings are very
provocative, they are preliminary and need to be validated in other studies.
However, they raise the issue of whether vitamin D supplementation might aid in
treatment for this malignancy."
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is a cancer of the white blood cells. DLBCL is the
most common type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The fast-growing cancer usually
occurs in adults.
The new findings are based on a study of 374 patients who were newly
diagnosed with DLBCL. Blood testing showed that half of them had a vitamin D
deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency was defined in this study as less than 25
nanogram/milliliter of total vitamin D in the blood.
Those with deficient vitamin D levels were 1.5 times more likely to have the
cancer progress, and had a twofold increase in the risk for dying.
The findings add credence to the growing body of evidence that suggests
vitamin D plays an important role in cancer risk and survival. But the American
diet usually doesn't provide enough vitamin D. Few foods and drinks naturally
contain the vitamin, although some, such as milk, cereals, and certain brands
of orange juice, are fortified with it.
The body's greatest supply of vitamin D comes from the sun. The body makes
vitamin D after direct exposure to the sun's UV rays. One cause of vitamin D
deficiency is limited exposure to sunlight.
"The exact roles that vitamin D might play in the initiation or progression
of cancer is unknown, but we do know that the vitamin plays a role in
regulation of cell growth and death, among other processes important in
limiting cancer," Drake says.
The study team will present their results this week at the 51st annual
meeting of the American Society of Hematology in New Orleans.
SOURCES:News release, Mayo Clinic.The 51st American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting, New Orleans,
Dec. 5-8, 2009.
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