Bladder Cancer & Vitamin D

Other than the already known benefits of Vitamin D, could there be yet another important benefit?  Our vitamin D intake is important, as low levels have been linked to a risk of bladder cancer.  These findings are coming from results presented recently at the Society for Endocrinology conference in the United Kingdom.

Evidence has already been shown that low vitamin D is detrimental to our health.  Some of it comes from a good diet, and good sources will include fatty fish and fish oil, dairy products, mushrooms, liver and egg yolks.  It is mostly synthesized when the body is exposed to sunlight.  It has been found that our dietary sources alone cannot normally provide sufficient vitamin D.

This particular vitamin helps our bodies to maintain healthy levels of calcium and phosphates and low levels are linked to a range of health problems.  If a child has low levels of vitamin D it can lead to bone deformities, such as rickets.  In time with age, a lack of vitamin D can lead to osteoporosis, especially in postmenopausal women.  The low levels have also been linked to cognitive impairment, cardiovascular disease, cancer and autoimmune conditions.

This condition is common among people with limited exposure to sunlight and includes those populations from northern regions where winter days are short, and also those in climates where it is too hot to spend time outdoors.  Those who cover up or use sunscreen with a strong SPF factor to avoid sunburn or skin cancer are at risk of the lack of vitamin D.  Low levels also include those who cover their bodies for cultural or religious reasons, those who stay out of the sun to keep their skin pale and people with darker skin who are also more prone to low vitamin D levels.

Drinking those sugary drinks may also have an impact on their vitamin D levels.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States noted that between 2002-2006, about 8% of the population aged 1 year or over were at risk of vitamin D deficiency, 24% at risk of inadequacy, and only 17% met the desirable levels.  Less than 1% raised concerns about an excess of vitamin D.  About 1.4% of the men and women in the U.S. are expected to develop bladder cancer.  This accounts for 4.6% of all new cancer cases and responsible for 2.8% of all cancer deaths.  

Dr. Rosemary Bland from the University of Warwick and Coventry in the U.K. led researchers who wanted to know more about how synthesis of vitamin D might affect immune responses in specific tissues.  The team had a systematic review of 7 studies to investigate the link between vitamin D and bladder cancer.  They had 112 to 1,125 participants per study and some of the studies measured vitamin D levels before diagnosis, some during and some at the follow-up stage.

Out of 7 studies performed, it was found that 5 had a risk of bladder cancer going up when vitamin D levels are low.  The higher levels also correlated with better survival and outcome in those with bladder cancer.  They also examined the transitional epithelial cells that line the bladder and found these cells can activate and respond to vitamin D.  They can also synthesize enough vitamin D to trigger a local immune response by recognizing the abnormal cells before they develop further.  Their conclusions are that bladder cancer risk correlates with low serum (vitamin D) levels and if confirmed, administering supplementary vitamin D could be a safe and economical means of prevention. More studies are required to test this association.  

–Dr Fredda Branyon

 

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