In 2015, there were 1,658,370 diagnoses of cancer in the United States alone.
While medical researchers still won’t claim that they have found a cure for cancer, they may have come pretty close with the newest discovery about an important essential vitamin.
Over the last 30 years, evidence has accumulated that shows higher vitamin D levels may prevent cancer. Since 1980, 16 different cancers have been shown to be associated with low vitamin D!
One of the biggest issues tying cancer to vitamin D deficiency is that too few people actually know how to determine if they are lacking the vitamin. While the only way to confirm a vitamin D deficiency is a blood test, there are many signs that an individual may be lacking the vitamin. Common indicators of vitamin D deficiency include:
- Depression or feeling “blue” – Serotonin is the brain hormone associated with mood elevation, which rises when light exposure increases and falls when sun exposure decreases. Individuals with the lowest levels of vitamin D are nearly 11 times more likely to be depressed.
- Severe asthma,especially in children
- Cognitive impairment,particularly in older adults
- Excessive sweating – Sweating that appears with no physical exertion or elevated temperatureisacommonindicatoroflowvitaminDlevels.
- Chronic pain
How vitamin D promotes normal cell growth
When vitamin D is converted to calcitriol, it can decrease cell division and increase normal maturation of cells. Both of these events should slow the development of cancer.
How vitamin D encourages the death of abnormal cells
Calcitriol not only protects against the development and growth of cancer cells but also destroys cells that may turn into cancer. It causes apoptosis (death) of cells that have acquired changes that could make them cancerous or malignant.
As a result, calcitriol may also sensitize cancer cells to cancer treatments like radiation therapy and chemotherapy, which further enhances the death of cancer cells.
How vitamin D protects cells from things that cause cancer
Scientists have been using new and sophisticated tools to examine all the ways that calcitriol might influence normal or cancerous cells. These studies have shown that calcitriol affects more than just controlling how cells multiply or die. Some of these new roles include:
- Induces the production of proteins that repair damage to the genes caused by factors like UV light from sunlight. DNA damage to genes is what causes mutations, and these mutations can affect the function of a gene thereby starting the process of cancer.
- Regulates the ability of cells to control molecules that can damage DNA or proteins. These molecules are called reactive oxygen species (ROS).
- Suppresses the production of chemicals that cause inflammation. Inflammation is a process that can make cancer develop more quickly or aggressively.
Vitamin D’s effect for those who already have cancer
The current thinking is that vitamin D, as calcitriol, may help your body ward off cancer before it forms or that it slows and kills cancer cells at the earliest stages (soon after they’ve formed) so that it never develops into a disease that needs treatment by a doctor.
The reason for this is that cancer is a creative disease. It figures out ways to get around all of the protections your body has to fight it. For example, whereas your immune system normally recognizes abnormal cells and kills them, tumors have developed ways to shut down this protection.
The same thing also seems to be happening with vitamin D. There is evidence that as cancer moves through the stages to become more advanced, it makes it harder for vitamin D to work. In some cancers the level or function of the vitamin D receptor is reduced; in others, enzymes that break down calcitriol are increased; and in others, the production of calcitriol is shut down in the cancer tissue.
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