According to the combined results of two large studies, individuals with the highest intake of vitamin D have a reduced risk of developing pancreatic cancer. These results were published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention.
Pancreatic cancer has one of the highest mortality rates of all cancers. Pancreatic cancer is often called a “silent killer” because its symptoms are usually not recognizable until it has advanced and spread outside the pancreas. As a result, the majority of pancreatic cancers are not diagnosed until they have reached advanced stages and are considered incurable.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that comes from dietary supplements, foods such as fortified milk and cereal and certain kinds of fish (including salmon, mackerel, and tuna), and exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is hypothesized to play a role in the prevention of some types of cancer.
To explore the relationship between dietary intake of vitamin D and risk of pancreatic cancer, researchers evaluated information from two large studies-the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The Nurses’ Health Study began in 1976 and enrolled more than 120,000 U.S. female nurses. The Health Professionals Follow-up Study began in 1986 and enrolled more than 50,000 U.S. male health professionals. Across the two studies, roughly 122,000 study participants contributed information to the current analysis.
During 16 years of follow-up, 365 people were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Risk of pancreatic cancer decreased with increasing vitamin D intake.
- Compared to those with the lowest intake of vitamin D (less than 150 IU per day), those with the highest intake of vitamin D (at least 600 IU per day) had a 41% lower risk of pancreatic cancer.
- The protective effect of vitamin D appeared to be stronger in men than in women.
- After accounting for vitamin D intake, there was no relationship between calcium or retinol intake and risk of pancreatic cancer.
The researchers conclude that higher intake of vitamin D appears to be linked with a reduced risk of pancreatic cancer.
Reference: Skinner HG, Michaud DS, Giovannucci E, Willett WC, Colditz GA, Fuchs CS. Vitamin D Intake and the Risk for Pancreatic Cancer in Two Cohort Studies. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention. 2006;15:1688-95.