No other vitamin has sparked so furious a fight in a medical community as Vitamin D. The debate concerning whether or not it prevents cancer is ongoing. Naturally, the stakes in this fight are extremely high because cancer is the second highest cause of death in this country after cardiovascular disease.
For this reason, we all want to know how to protect ourselves from this monster, especially because traditional western medicine does not offer preventative prescriptions. Yes, there are some screening tools like mammograms, colonoscopies and PAP smears, but these are far from 100% accurate. Therefore, we must forge our own fight with regard to cancer prevention. Because traditional medicine does not offer a solution, I had to find one on my own. From the beginning it was not an easy task because this is not taught in medical schools. Obviously, history has shown that sometimes removing the tumor itself does not work well enough because even though cancer is removed, the root cause of the cancer was not even found and not eradicated. The result: cancer recurrence. According to some research, surgery may even promote the spread of cancer.
- During healing from surgery our body makes growth stimulators to promote healing; unfortunately, these stimulators actually help cancer to spread. (Even large studies suggest that less invasive surgery offers at least the same survival rate as aggressive surgeries.)
- Therefore, removal of a tumor is not always the optimal single solution. This hit me on a personal level because my father died of prostate cancer. I desperately needed to find out if there was any holistic preventative protection from contracting cancer. I began looking for the answer. In 2008, the first breakthrough came. A study was published in European Journal of Cancer in June of that year which examined people with melanoma who were told by their doctors to avoid sun exposure. The patients who disobeyed the doctor's orders and got a lot of sun exposure were actually doing better than those who followed doctor's orders and stayed out of sun!
- Even more revealing was the fact that the majority of melanoma patients did not have a sunlight signature mutation, making sunlight the unlikely cause of this deadly skin cancer.
- This was puzzling because if we assume that cancer is caused by carcinogens or similar working agents like sunlight, then someone who already has cancer should stay away from those agents. Obviously, this was not the case. So, if it is not carcinogens or sunlight that caused the melanoma, what was the cause? How can we explain that women, who never smoked, still have lung cancer? Could the root cause of cancer be inside of us? In this case, the logical explanation would be our own broken defense against cancer. Normally our body detects, kills, and then eliminates what could harm it. Bacteria or tumor cells are captured by body cells that first attack foreign enemies, namely the macrophage or dendrite cells. They release a unique signature called antigen to memory cells (lymphocytes), and then decide whether or not it is okay to let these cells live or be killed off. If the foreign bacteria are bad, or it is a cancer cell, then our body mobilizes all its resources to kill the bad cells. But does this always happen in reality? We know that it does not always occur. Somehow, our bodies do not recognize cancer cells as enemies and therefore it allows them to flourish rather than kill them. The Kitava study
- found that people do not have cancer if they are not subject to the influences of modern civilization. In the beginning, it appeared to me that something was really wrong with the cells that first attack the cancer cells, the lymphocytes. What could be wrong with them? Then, what I learned shocked me. Vitamin D is activated not only in the kidneys but also in the part of the immune system I was interested in – macrophages.
- Why would our body decide to activate Vitamin D in macrophages? Is it because macrophages need Vitamin D to function?
- According to National Institute of Health there is no relation between Vitamin D and cancer prevention
- Moreover, we do not need that much Vitamin D because the recommended daily dose is only 600 units. Because some products, including milk, are fortified with Vitamin D, the majority of us are getting enough of it daily, as per the National Institute of Health. Suddenly, I asked myself: Why would melanoma patients fare better if they were exposed to sun? Would this fact relate somehow to Vitamin D and its effects on the body? In its simplest form: What does sunlight do? It makes Vitamin D! Therefore, is it Vitamin D we need to get more of in order to be protected from cancer? To further investigate I needed to prove that low Vitamin D levels were related to higher cancer rates or produced a bad prognosis. What I found was this: Multiple studies showed that a lack of Vitamin D leads to either increased risk of cancer or decreased survival rates, especially for breast and colon cancer
- Isn't this impressive? Logically, however, if Vitamin D helps immune system to function, it should help to fight other immune system diseases. Research found that low Vitamin D levels are associated with increased rates of such immune system diseases as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and juvenile diabetes
- That’s not all. Vitamin D deficiency was linked to peripheral artery disease, known colloquially as “clogged arteries” (18). What about the brain? Does it need Vitamin D to function properly? Apparently yes, because not getting enough Vitamins D was linked to Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases (
At this point, it seemed to me that Vitamin D acts more like a prohormone, than a simple vitamin because it is needed for the successful operation of so many organs and systems. Could this also be because it is regulating one of the most important minerals in our body -- calcium? Is this because the chemical structure of Vitamin D resembles steroid hormones like cortisol, estrogen and testosterone? It definitely circulates in the blood like a hormone to support multiple body functions. Vitamin D may help you to support:
- Immune system (10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17).
- Vascular system (18).
- Brain (19).
Isn't it wonderful? Because this vitamin is so important, we want to make sure that we are getting enough of it. Did Mother Nature forget to give us a reliable way to do this? Normally, our bodies make Vitamin D in the skin with help of ultraviolet light B (UVB). This light we can get from sun or tanning lamps. UVB is the most abundant in tropics and is decreased in temperate regions and almost never detected in arctic circles. These simple facts can explain why we may be deficient in Vitamin D—because we are mostly indoors and covered by our clothing. Unless we walk around naked and spend at least half a day on the beach every day to get enough vitamin D we have to rely on its food sources (mercury-free fatty fish and fish oil, eggs, beef liver, etc.). The question is: How much is enough? According to the government, 600 units per day is enough (9). Relying on the government recommendation, I advised my patients to take that dose daily to make sure that they have enough vitamin D. I, myself, was taking about the same dose. Still, I was puzzled. Even though the patients were taking this government recommended dose, the majority of them were deficient in Vitamin D. Moreover, even though some of them were taking as much as 50,000 units a month, they were still low in Vitamin D. Obviously, the government recommendation was not working in real life, but why? To get the answer I looked into two possibilities: Vitamin D absorption problems and its metabolic abnormalities. Normally, ingested food is digested mainly in the stomach and then in the bowels with the help of gastric- and pan-creating enzymes as well as hydrochloric acid, where it is then absorbed into our body. Because vitamin D is fat soluble, lack of pancreatic enzymes, responsible for fat digestion, may cause low vitamin D levels. Also, increased lead burden can interfere with the absorption of vitamin D. According to the government, the toxic blood level of lead is 10. If it is above this magic number, then treatment is warranted. What if the lead level is 9? Couldn’t this also cause Vitamin D problems? How you could get enough Vitamin D to support your bones, brain, vessels and immune system:
- Get your vitamin D level checked.
- Talk to your doctor about the vitamin D dose that is right for you.
- Recheck your vitamin D levels in the regular bases.
If despite taking a recommended dose of vitamin D your levels are still low, and your family doctor or/and specialist cannot solve the problem, then consult with a functional medicine doctor to find the root cause of your vitamin D deficiency problem. The problem could be related to digestion or/and absorption issues, increased lead burden, etc.
Make sure, that if you are sunbathing, you are not removing your skin superficial layer by scrubbing or using too much soap.
Best of health, Dr. Kalitenko References: 1. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jso.20273/abstract Surgery promotes implantation of disseminated tumor cells, but does not increase growth of tumor cell clusters† 2. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa020989 3. http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2011/02/21/hlsa0221.htm 4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18406602 Sun exposure prior to diagnosis is associated with improved survival in melanoma patients: results from a long-term follow-up study of Italian patients. 5. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v417/n6892/full/nature00766.html Mutations of the BRAF gene in human cancer 6. http://www.staffanlindeberg.com/TheKitavaStudy.html 7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_D 8. When synthesized by monocyte-macrophages, calcitriol acts locally as a cytokine, defending the body against microbial invaders. Adams, J. S.; Hewison, M. (2010). "Update in Vitamin D". Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 95 (2): 471–8. doi:10.1210/jc.2009-1773. PMC 2840860. PMID 20133466. http://jcem.endojournals.org/content/95/2/471 9. Official point of view: vitamin D does not play a role in cancer prevention. Institute of Medicine. http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=13050&page=R1 DRI DIETARY REFERENCE INTAKES Calcium Vitamin D Committee to Review Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium Food and Nutrition Board 10. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cncr.10427/abstract;jsessioni... An estimate of premature cancer mortality in the U.. due to inadequate doses of solar ultraviolet-B radiation 11. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cncr.10196/abstract An ecologic study of dietary and solar ultraviolet-B links to breast carcinoma mortality rates 12. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960076005002451 Vitamin D and prevention of colorectal cancer 13. http://www.annalsofepidemiology.org/article/S1047-2797(09)00105-7/abstract Vitamin D for Cancer Prevention: Global Perspective 14. http://www.annalsofepidemiology.org/article/S1047-2797(09)00010-6/abstract Ecological Studies Of Ultraviolet B, Vitamin D And Cancer Since 2000 15. http://www.annalsofepidemiology.org/article/S1047-2797(09)00014-3/abstract Vitamin D and Breast Cancer 16. Vit D and Cancer http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/ilsi/nure/2007/00000065/A00108s1/a... What is the Dose-Response Relationship between Vitamin D and Cancer Risk? 17. Vit D and Cancers, MS, RA, juvenile diabetes http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15585788 Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disease. 18. Vit D and PVD http://atvb.ahajournals.org/content/28/6/1179 Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Levels and the Prevalence of Peripheral Arterial Disease 19. Vit D Parkinson and Alzheimer http://archneur.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/65/10/1348 Prevalence of Vitamin D Insufficiency in Patients With Parkinson Disease and Alzheimer DiseaseDone