What if there was one thing you could do to help cut the risk of cancer and disease in half? Would you do it?
What if it was as simple as getting enough sun?
Vitamin D, an important vitamin that manages calcium in your blood, bones and gut, helps cells all over your body communicate properly and is a major factor in determining how well your body fights cancer.
A majority of studies have found a protective relationship between sufficient vitamin D status and lower risk of cancer. Taking this into consideration, along with the fact that over 40% of the U.S. population is deficient in vitamin D, creates a scenario of cancer cases popping up far more often than not.
Vitamin D is produced in your skin when it is exposed to sunlight (specifically UVB-rays), and has several important functions:
1. Regulates absorption of calcium and phosphorous
2. Facilitates normal immune function
3. Supports proper muscle growth
4. Cardiovascular function (reduces your risk of developing heart disease)
5. Brain development (reduces chance of developing multiple sclerosis)
6. *Significantly reduces your risk of developing cancer (more on this below)
7. Improves respiratory function
Vitamin D and Cancer
If you do a basic search in the PubMed database, you will find over 63 observational studies that correlate vitamin D consumption with reduced cancer risk. Vitamin D has anti-proliferative effects on cancer, activating apoptotic pathways that inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Vitamin D deficiencies linked to cancer have been tested and confirmed in more than 200 epidemiological studies, with understanding of this basis stemming from over 2,500 laboratory studies.
One study in particular conducted at The Osteoporosis Research Center of Creighton University found a 77% reduction in the incidence of all cancers, after just four years. This study was performed on a group of postmenopausal women who were given a vitamin D supplement to raise their serum levels to 40 ng/ml (which is an incredibly modest level).
According to the article, The Role of Vitamin D in Cancer Prevention, published in the American Journal of Public Health, vitamin D and its metabolites reduce the incidence of many types of cancer via the following mechanisms:
1. Inhibiting tumour angiogenesis
2. Stimulating mutual adherence of cells
3. Enhancing intercellular communication through gap junctions (strengthens the inhibition of proliferation that results from tight physical contact with adjacent cells within a tissue)
Even the role of vitamin D and breast cancer have been strongly linked, even to the point of breast cancer being called the “vitamin D deficiency syndrome.” Breast cancer death rates have been found to be higher in areas where there is lower sunlight levels. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with faster progression of metastatic breast cancer, and women containing serum vitamin D levels in the lowest quartile had a breast cancer risk 5 times higher than those with levels in the highest quartile.
How do I get enough Vitamin D?
Getting enough vitamin D can be as simple as getting out in the sun for 15-20 minutes per day. Naked sun-bathing is the most optimal (so all parts of the body get exposed), however that isn’t as societally accepted as we could hope. The next best thing would be to get into a bathing suit and sit out in the sun.
You want vitamin D3, which is synthesized when your skin is exposed to the sun. You can also take supplements, although I always say go straight to the source instead of supplementing. A good supplement synthesized from mushrooms is by Nature’s Plus – their stuff is great (and this is not an endorsement article – I found their vitamin D supplement a couple years ago and use it during the winter months when I am not in the sun as often).
It is recommended to get around 1,000 international units (IU’s) per day, which is enough to lower an individual’s risk of some cancers by 50%.