Vitamin D Can Prevent Cancer
According to researchers at the Moore's Cancer
Center at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) increased
levels of Vitamin D3 could prevent 600,00 cases of breast and
colorectal cancers each year. 150,000 in the US alone. This applies
especially to countries north of the equator.
Low levels of Vitamin D also contribute to many other human
health conditions. It is a necessary Vitamin.
"A wealth of evidence suggests that rickets is the tip of a Vitamin
D insufficiency/deficiency iceberg. A lack of Vitamin D can also
trigger infections (influenza and tuberculosis), autoimmune diseases
(multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and
inflammatory bowel disease), cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
Practitioners of conventional medicine (i.e., most MDs) are just
beginning to appreciate the true impact of Vitamin D deficiency. In
1990, medical journals published less than 20 reviews and editorials
on Vitamin D. Last year they published more than 300 reviews and
editorials on this Vitamin/hormone. This year, on July 19, 2007,
even the New England Journal of Medicine, the bellwether of
pharmaceutically-oriented conventional medicine in the U.S.,
published a review on Vitamin D that addresses its role in
autoimmune diseases, infections, cardiovascular disease, and cancer
(New England Medical Journal 2007;357:266–281)." - Donald Miller,
cardiac surgeon and Professor of Surgery at the University of
Washington in Seattle.
The human body can create Vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. In
fact it sounds like lack of Vitamin D is worse than any excess
exposure to the sun.
Vitamin D in a New Light
by Donald W. Miller, Jr., MD
There are thirteen Vitamins humans need for growth and development
and to maintain good health. The human body cannot make these
essential bio-molecules. They must be supplied in the diet or by
bacteria in the intestine, except for Vitamin D. Skin makes
Vitamin D when exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from the
sun. A light-skinned person will synthesize 20,000 IU (international
units) of Vitamin D in 20 minutes sunbathing on a Caribbean beach.
A growing body of evidence indicates that that Vitamin D can prevent
a whole host of cancers – colon, breast, lung, pancreatic, ovarian,
and prostate cancer among them. Colon cancer rates are 4 to 6 times
higher in North America and Europe, where solar radiation is less
intense, particularly during the winter months, compared to the
incidence of colon cancer near the equator. People with low blood
levels of Vitamin D and those who live at higher latitudes are at
increased risk for acquiring various kinds of cancer. Many
epidemiological, cohort, and case control studies prove, at least on
a more likely than not basis, that Vitamin D supplements and
adequate exposure to sunlight play an important role in cancer
prevention (Am J Public Health 2006;96:252–261).
A Creighton University study has shown that women over the age of 55
who took a 1,100 IU/day Vitamin D supplement, with calcium, and were
followed for 4 years had a highly statistically significant (P
<0.005) 75% reduction in breast cancer (diagnosed after the first 12
months) compared with women who took a placebo (Am J Clin Nutr
New research suggests that influenza is also a disease triggered by
Vitamin D deficiency. Influenza virus exists in the population
year-round, but influenza epidemics are seasonal and occur only in
the winter (in northern latitudes), when Vitamin D blood levels are
at their lowest.
Our species evolved in equatorial Africa where the sun, shining
directly overhead, supplies its inhabitants with year-round
ultraviolet B photons for making Vitamin D. Our African ancestors
absorbed much higher doses of Vitamin D living exposed in that
environment compared to the amount most humans obtain today. A
single mutation that occurred around 50,000 years ago is responsible
for the appearance of white skin in humans. It turns out that a
difference in one rung, or base pair, in the 3 billion-rung DNA
ladder that constitutes the human genome determines the color of
one’s skin (Science 2005;310:1782–1786). White skin, with less
melanin, synthesizes Vitamin D in sunlight six times faster than
dark skin. People possessing this mutation were able to migrate to
higher latitudes, populate Europe, Asia, and North America, and be
able to make enough Vitamin D to survive.
The majority of the world’s population now lives above latitude 35°
N and is unable to synthesize Vitamin D from sunlight for a period
of time in winter owing to the angle of the sun. At a large solar
zenith angle, ozone in the upper atmosphere will completely block
UVB radiation. In Seattle (47° N) and London (52° N), from October
to April UVB photons are blocked by the atmosphere so one’s skin
cannot make Vitamin D. (The half-life of circulating Vitamin D is
approximately one month.) Making matters worse, even when UVB
radiation is available in sunlight, health authorities, led by the
American Academy of Dermatology, warn people to shield themselves
from the sun to avoid getting skin cancer.
Except for oily fish like (wild-only) salmon, mackerel, and sardines
and cod liver oil – and also sun-dried mushrooms – very little
Vitamin D is naturally present in our food. Milk, orange juice,
butter, and breakfast cereal are fortified with Vitamin D, but with
only 100 IU per serving. A person would have to drink 200 8-oz.
glasses of milk to obtain as much Vitamin D as skin makes fully
exposed to the noonday sun.
The U.S. Food and Nutrition Board in the Institute of Medicine puts
the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Vitamin D at 200 IU for
children and adults less than 50 years old, 400 IU for adults age
50–70, and 800 IU for adults over the age of 70. Most multivitamin
preparations contain 400 IU of Vitamin D. These guidelines are
directed towards maintaining bone health and are sufficient to
prevent rickets – but not cancer, cardiovascular disease, multiple
sclerosis, or influenza. Without evidence to support it, the board
arbitrarily set the safe upper limit for Vitamin D consumption at
A majority of Americans have insufficient or deficient Vitamin D
blood levels. In veterans undergoing heart surgery at the Seattle VA
hospital, I found that 78% had a low Vitamin D level: 12% were
insufficient; 56%, deficient; and 10% were severely deficient.
There are two kinds of Vitamin D supplements: Vitamin D3
(cholecalciferol), the kind our skin makes, and Vitamin D2
(ergocalciferol), a synthetic variant made by irradiating plants.
Vitamin D2 is only 10–30% as effective in raising 25-hydroxyVitamin
D blood levels compared to Vitamin D3, leading the authors of a
recent study conclude, "Vitamin D2 should not be regarded as a
nutrient suitable for supplementation or fortification" (Am J Clin
Concerns about Vitamin D toxicity are overblown, along with those
about sun exposure. As one researcher in the field puts it, "Worrying
about Vitamin D toxicity is like worrying about drowning when you’re
dying of thirst." A person must consume 50,000 IU a day for
several months before hypercalcemia (an elevated calcium level in
the blood, which is the initial manifestation of Vitamin D toxicity)
might occur. Vitamin D in a physiologic dose (5,000 IU/day) prevents
the build up of calcium in blood vessels. (Circulation
1997;96:1755–1760). If one takes 10,000 IU of Vitamin D a day and
spends a lot of time in the sun, it would be prudent to check
Vitamin D blood level to ensure that it does not exceed 100 ng/ml.
Sensible sun exposure should be encouraged, not maligned. If one
avoids sunburn, the sun’s health-giving benefits far outweigh its
detrimental effects. A large body of evidence indicates that
sunlight does not cause the most lethal form of skin cancer,
malignant melanoma. A U.S. Navy study found that melanoma
occurred more frequently in sailors who worked indoors all the time.
Those who worked outdoors had the lowest incidence of melanoma.
Also, most melanomas appear on parts of the body that are seldom
exposed to sunlight (Arch Environ Health 1990;45:261–267). Sun
exposure is associated with increased survival from melanoma (J
Natl Cancer Inst 2005;97:195–199). Another study showed that people
who had longer lifetime exposure to the sun without burning were
less likely to get melanomas than those with less exposure (J Invest
The rise in skin cancers over the last 25 years parallels the rise
in use of sunscreen lotions, which block Vitamin D-producing UVB
radiation but not cancer-causing ultraviolet A radiation (UVA).
(Newer sunscreen lotions also block out UVA.)
The U.S. government and its citizens currently spend $2 trillion on
"health care," i.e., sickness care, each year. The cost of taking a
5,000 IU supplement of Vitamin D every day for a year is $22.00. The
cost for 300 million Americans taking this supplement would be $6.6
billion dollars. The number and variety of diseases that Vitamin D
at this dose could prevent, starting with a 50 percent reduction in
cancer, is mind-boggling. If everyone took 5,000 IU/day of
Vitamin D, the U.S. "health care" industry would shrink. It would no
longer account for 16 percent of the gross domestic product.
Source of information: Donald Miller is a cardiac surgeon and
Professor of Surgery at the University of Washington in Seattle. He
is a member of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness and writes articles
on a variety of subjects for LewRockwell.com. His web site is
Article Link to actual article:
Forbes.com September 10, 2007
Archives of Internal Medicine September 10, 2007;167:1730-1737
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