Sunshine vitamin can boost cancer survival
BOWEL cancer patients with high levels of vitamin D in their blood are more likely to survive the disease.
Patients with the highest levels of vitamin D – known as the sunshine vitamin – have half the risk of dying compared with those with the lowest levels of the same vitamin.
Scientists from Trinity College Dublin and the University of Edinburgh analysed data from almost 1,600 patients treated for non-metastatic bowel cancer – a form of the disease which had not spread to other parts of the body.
It is the second most common cancer in Ireland, striking 1,900 people annually and causing 930 deaths.
Researchers found that as many as three-quarters of patients with the high vitamin D levels were still alive at the end of five years, compared with fewer than two-thirds of those with the lowest.
The study's authors now aim to set up a clinical trial to test whether taking vitamin D tablets in combination with chemotherapy can improve bowel cancer survival rates.
Measuring vitamin D levels in bowel cancer patients could also provide a tool for doctors who are trying to come to a prognosis, the scientists say in the findings.
More investigations are needed before giving advice to patients to take vitamin D supplements – although it is assumed they would increase concentrations in the blood.
Prof Malcolm Dunlop, of the Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit at the University of Edinburgh, said: "Our findings are promising but it is important to note that this is an observational study.
"We need carefully designed randomised clinical trials before we can confirm whether taking vitamin D supplements offers any survival benefit for bowel cancer patients."