Vitamin D cancer treatment

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First things first, vitamin D is not actually a vitamin: the term vitamin D refers to a group of pro-hormones, precursors to hormones that typically do not express hormonal activity. There are two such prohormones important to us humans:

The plant product ergocalciferol, aka vitamin D2
The human body product cholecaciferol, aka vitamin D3, made when ultraviolet radiation meets our skin.

What happens is that either vitamin D2 or vitamin D3 enters our bodies, where it is modified by the liver into 25-hydroxyvitamin D. When 25-hydroxyvitamin D reaches our kidneys, they modify it into 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, aka the active form of vitamin D.

1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D is better known as calcitriol, but it is best known simply as vitamin D.

The health benefits of vitamin D

Vitamin D is great for us humans. Among many benefits, vitamin D …

  • Strengthens muscles
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Improves immune function
  • Moderates mineral levels in the blood to encourage the formation, growth and repair of bone

Vitamin D and cancer treatment

Several different vitamins have found their way into quack cancer treatments, including vitamin A, vitamin B17, vitamin C and vitamin K. None can offer any proof of efficacy as a cancer treatment, and the same is true for vitamin D.

However, vitamin D appears to have some rather powerful anti-cancer effects in lab rats and in vitro—meaning in the setting of a Petri dish, in the lab. If every substance that killed cancer cells in the lab or in lab rats also worked in the human body, cancer would be as easy to treat as the common cold. Unfortunately, many, many substances kill cancer cells in the lab before failing miserably in the human body, meaning in vitro efficacy must always be taken with a grain of salt.

Vitamin D and cancer prevention

Unlike its dubious relationship with cancer treatment, vitamin D appears to have some qualities in reducing one's risk of developing some types of cancer. The cancers typically named in this respect are colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, and pancreatic cancer. But the research is by no means conclusive, and it is not recommended that one begin taking vitamin D supplements thinking that the effort is preventing these cancers; rather, one should bring these questions and concerns to their doctor or health care professional.

Sources

National Cancer Institute, Vitamin D and Cancer Prevention

Quackwatch, Questionable Cancer Therapies

Cancer and vitamin D researcher JoEllen Welsh's publications at Pubmed.

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