World Cancer Day 2022: Understanding the role of Vitamin D in cancer

Understanding the role of Vitamin D in cancer

NEW DELHI: World Cancer Day is observed annually on February 4 to highlight and spread awareness about one of the most-deadliest diseases, which unfortunately can also be genetic – Cancer.

Till date, researchers are experimenting, studying, researching and developing new methods, technologies, medications and injectable solutions to cure prevent and cancer. But unfortunately, not all these medications and treatments are affordable for everyone and hence, many cancer patients die without even getting the chance of proper treatment.

Hence, we must take good care of our health and take a pledge to spread as much awareness about cancer prevention measures as possible. One of those is, spreading awareness about the importance of Vitamin D in one’s life.

Our immune cells have the capability of producing Vitamin D in our body which helps in many immune-related processes including strengthening the immune system, reducing autoimmune issues and reducing susceptibility to infections.

Laboratory and animal studies have shown that Vitamin D may stop cancer cell formation and slow tumour progression through anti-inflammatory actions. Till date, there have been randomised control trials that have proved direct anticancer actions of Vitamin D. But studies have shown that a well-balanced diet rich in Vitamin D and a balanced weight shows decreased cancer formation and progression.

Dr Tanvi Sood, Consultant in Medical Oncology, Paras Hospitals, Gurugram, spoke to ANI about the link between cancer and Vitamin D deficiency.

She said, “Breast cancer and colorectal cancers have shown link with Vitamin D deficiency in several studies. However, Vitamin D alone as cancer prevention or treatment has not been proven till date.” Mirroring Dr Tanvi’s thoughts on Vitamin D deficiency and cancer was Dr Hemant Goyal, Surgical Oncologist, Ujala Cygnus Rainbow Hospital Agra, who also spoke to ANI.

When asked if Vitamin D deficiency caused cancer, he said, “No, but over 70 per cent of cancer patients have reduced Vitamin D and some studies show high dose of Vitamin D supplementation reduces cancer risk.” Both these doctors have similar opinions on Vitamin D and its role in cancer, but one thing is amply clear from their statements, that is, even though several studies have implicated deficiency of Vitamin D to be linked with increased cancer incidence, there is not enough proof to substantiate this.

However, in cancer patients who are deficient in Vitamin D, it has been seen that cancer progression is more to the advanced stage as compared to those with good levels of Vitamin D. This gives brownie points to Vitamin D as a good source of fighting cancer or at least preventing it.

When asked whether Vitamin D is used in chemotherapy, Dr Tanvi said, “Yes, Vitamin D can be given during chemotherapy safely. In fact, it is essential part of treatment in breast cancer patients on hormonal treatments.”

This was another positive factor which indicated that, directly or indirectly, Vitamin D did have many positive implications on the body. But what are the sources of Vitamin D? You may or may not know by now, but the most abundantly available source of Vitamin D is the Sun! Yes! The very Sun we often choose not to indulge ourselves in, for the fear of getting tanned or contracting skin cancer due to over exposure.

But there is a middle ground in this too, wherein, we can not only avoid any risk of contracting skin cancer but also, get the Vitamin D our body needs.

Exposure to sunlight depends on which part of the world one is living in and also one’s skin tone. People in tropical areas and with darker skin tones require less exposure as compared to people with a lighter skin tone living in colder regions. Mid-day sun exposure around 10 am to 3 pm, about 10-20 minutes once or twice a week is considered adequate, according to experts.

Other than Sunlight, we can include Vitamin D in our diet too. A well-balanced diet with Vitamin D includes fortified foods (food with added nutrients) like fortified milk substitutes, fortified tofu, fortified yogurt, fortified breakfast cereals, fortified orange juice, soy and green leafy vegetables, for those who are vegetarian. For those who are non-vegetarians, eggs and fish can be added to their diet to get the required Vitamin D.

It is an unspoken rule that in addition to a balanced meal, daily exercise is essential for a good and healthy body and most importantly, a healthy mind.

It has also been also suggested by doctors that routine testing for Vitamin D levels should be done, especially for postmenopausal women and supplementation by Vitamin D is advisable, in case of deficiency. It is an unfortunate reality that not many people have the privilege to research and read about cancer and know the measures that can be taken to prevent it or steps that are needed for its treatment.

It is hence, our moral responsibility, that on the occasion of World Cancer Day, we spread as much awareness about it, especially to those who may not have the chance or access for it, as possible and fulfil our duty as a responsible human being. (ANI)

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