Cancer warning: 1 in 6 UK adults have vitamin deficiency linked to ‘tumour progression’

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Cancer risk increases as you age. The older you get, the more likely you’re to develop cancer. However, there are modifiable risk factors for cancer. In fact, four in 10 cancers are preventable.

Research has found an association between low vitamin D levels and “metastasis and tumour progression”, warned Doctor Tariq Mahmood, Medical Director of Concepto Diagnostics.

Vitamin D is commonly branded the “sunshine vitamin” because your skin makes it through exposure to sunlight.

The doc cited a mice study published in the journal Endocrinology, which suggested that being deficient in vitamin D may promote the spread of certain types of breast cancer.

The study mostly used cell lines and mice and identified a link between vitamin D levels and the expression of an oncogene called ID1.

This oncogene – a mutated gene that has the potential to cause cancer – has been linked to tumour growth and metastasis in certain types of cancer including breast cancer.

What accounts for this association?

Doctor Mahmood explained: “Once your body extracts vitamin D from food and supplements, it’s converted into a hormone called calcitriol.

“Calcitriol spreads to several different body tissues, including breast tissue. Calcitriol binds to the vitamin D receptor (VDR), which regulates a large number of genes, some of which are associated with cancer.”

The doc continued: “Patients with breast cancer typically have pre-existing vitamin D deficiencies by the time a cancerous tumour develops.

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“The ablation of vitamin D receptor expression within breast cancer cells, accelerates primary tumour growth and enables the development of metastases. Though, it remains unknown if the association is mechanistically causative.”

However, the jury is still out on the association.

Cancer Research UK says: “There isn’t enough good evidence to link low levels of vitamin D (vitamin D deficiency) to cancer.”

There’s also not enough evidence that taking them also reduces the risk of cancer, the charity notes.

Doctor Mahmood is also equivocal about the association: “Considerable research still needs to be done before making definitive statements on the association between vitamin deficiencies and cancer risk. The relationship is extremely complex.”

The doc continued: “Ensuring that you eat a healthy, balanced diet and stay on top of all your supplements to meet the recommended daily allowance – taking multivitamin supplements if required – is the best preventative approach.”

“Of course, taking multivitamins doesn’t outright prevent cancer, but it has a great impact on bone health, and therefore is a must for women undergoing breast cancer treatment owing to the therapies used in their treatment.”

Indeed, low levels of vitamin D (vitamin D deficiency) can cause health problems.

These include bone problems in adults, and rickets (bone deformities) in children.

In the UK, the NHS recommends people at risk of vitamin D deficiency take a 10 microgram (400 I.U.) supplement throughout the year.

The NHS also has recommendations for children and babies.

The Government recommends that everyone takes a vitamin D supplement between October and the end of March, when the sun’s rays are weaker.

It’s worth noting that taking too many vitamin D supplements over a long period of time can cause too much calcium to build up in the body (hypercalcaemia).

“If you choose to take vitamin D supplements, 10 micrograms a day will be enough for most people,” says the NHS.

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