For cancer patients, one vitamin could add up to extra years

Borrowing some time

I’ve told you before that my father suffered with chronic lymphocytic leukemia for more than 20 years.

That’s why this new study jumped off the page at me.

Most CLL patients are diagnosed at an early stage of the disease, just like my dad. And most hear the same two things from their doctors: 1) This is a slow-growing cancer, and 2) Chemotherapy won’t begin until symptoms appear.

Now, new research suggests that in that interval before chemo, one vitamin could have a profound impact on survival time.

Yet another “A+” for D

It’s hard to think in terms of an “upside” of a fatal disease. But if there is one, the upside of CLL is that survival time is often quite long.

And now it seems we may be able to extend that even further thanks to vitamin D–and a new study from the Mayo Clinic.

Researchers evaluated vitamin D concentrations in blood samples taken from 390 newly diagnosed CLL patients. After three years, patients who were deficient in vitamin D were much more likely to have begun chemotherapy. These patients were also twice as likely to die during the study period compared to patients with high D levels.

At this point, there’s no way of knowing if D supplements will slow CLL progression. This is where researchers usually say it’s too early to make any recommendations like that. But the lead researcher told Science Daily that if patients are deficient, “…vitamin D supplements are widely available and have minimal side effects.”

So even though he’s stopping just short of recommending D for CLL patients, I imagine if he were diagnosed with CLL today, he’d be adding vitamin D to his routine.

And for those that prefer more science, the Mayo team is actually planning a study to test D supplement use on patients diagnosed with CLL.

But what we can absolutely walk away with here is that adequate vitamin D levels might help some — if not all — cancer patients have a better outcome.

Science Daily notes research that shows a link between D deficiency and progression of several different types of cancers. And there’s already evidence that the development of some of those cancers has been slowed down by D supplements.

But this very encouraging news has a flipside: Vitamin D deficiency is very common throughout the world.

Knowing that most of us are deficient and it’s a critical weapon in the battle against most illnesses–and especially cancer–why wouldn’t you make sure D is part of your regimen?

Sources:
“Vitamin D insufficiency and prognosis in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL)” Blood, Published online ahead of print, 11/3/10, bloodjournal.hematologylibrary.org
“Insufficient Vitamin D Levels in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Patients Linked to Cancer Progression and Death” Science Daily, 11/4/10, sciencedaily.com

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