Can vitamin D deficiency cause cancer? Expert take
Vitamin D deficiency can cause bone and joint pain, fractures, osteoporosis, muscle cramps, fatigue, mood changes and fatigue. But can it also cause cancer? Here's what experts have to say.
Vitamin D is a major fat-soluble vitamin of the body as it helps to absorb calcium which is needed for smooth functioning of the body. Signs of vitamin D deficiency include bone and joint pain, fractures, osteoporosis, muscle cramps, fatigue, mood changes and fatigue.
Recent studies have associated Vitamin D deficiency with risk of several types of cancer. Certain cancers like ovarian, breast, colon, and multiple myelomas have shown strong association with deficiency of vit D3.
Taking vitamin D supplements is said to be beneficial in a range of chronic conditions like bone mineral disease, autoimmunity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, apart from some cancers.
What experts have to say about vitamin D deficiency and cancer
"With ongoing reasearch in cancer role of Vitamin D, it has also shown association with certain cancers. Trials suggest that low values of Vitamin D lead to interference in the epithelial lining of colon, hence being quoted as one of the causative agents for malignancy. To my understanding vitamin D, not only takes care of your bones, but also helps in the process of repairing defective genes formed, by a process called MMR (mis-match repair) which requires presence of the active form of vitamin D to function properly. If the defective genes are formed due to interference of MMR Mechanisms, it may to lead to cancer," says Dr. Amit Bhargava Senior Consultant - Medical Oncology Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad.
Certain cancers have shown strong association with deficiency of vit D3, it is not the case with all kinds of cancer. In a large study it was found that taking vitamin D3 and calcium did not lower the overall chances of getting cancer in healthy women after menopause. Other studies have suggested that vitamin D does not seem to lower the odds for several kinds of cancer, including stomach cancer, prostate cancer and cancer of the esophagus.
"Stronger and much robust trials need to be conducted to establish the role in other malignancies and also risk reduction benefits of supplementation," says Dr Bhargava.
What you should know before starting vitamin D treatment
Vitamin D treatment should be started only after consultation with experts as excessive intake of vitamin D can lead to some life-threatening health conditions.
"It is advisable to check levels of vitamin D before starting treatment with it. Oral supplementation with vitamin D is safe but it always has to be done under supervision of a doctor. Too much intake of vitamin D can lead to high calcium levels and hypervitaminosis d which can be life threatening if unrecognized and untreated. Injectable vitamin D substitution is preferably avoided as it can increase the risk of kidney stones," says Dr Manjusha Agarwal, general physician, Global Group of Hospital Pare, Mumbai.
How to improve vitamin D levels naturally
Spending time outdoors and getting sunlight can help improve vitamin D levels apart from eating a vitamin D-rich diet like fish, eggs, and dry fruits which can help meet the daily vitamin D requirement of 15 micrograms (600 IU).
"Sunlight exposure helps in improving vitamin D levels as more of it is synthesized from cholesterol in skin cells. Sunbathing of minimum 10 minutes and maximum 30 minutes is ideal, at least 3-4 times a week between 10 am to 3pm," says Dr Agarwal.
She however cautions against spending too much time in the sun as it may cause sun burns and sun tan.
"Make use of a hat to protect your face and goggles to avoid eye problems. Avoid use of any sunscreen during sunbathing as sunscreens interferes with vitamin D production," she says.
Ensure adequate intake of vitamin D rich foods like milk, soy milk, fortified cereals, fish, eggs, cheese, butter, broccoli, mushroom, avocado, papaya, dry fruits like walnuts, peanuts and almonds is also advised by the expert.
Dr Bhargava says that almost 80 % of the population in India is Vitamin D deficient, and that's because there aren't enough Vitamin D fortified food products.
"In western countries milk, milk products, juices etc are fortified with vitamin D and hence deficient population is less as compared to our country," says the expert.