If taken for at least three years, vitamin D can help cancer patients live longer, Michigan State University physicians found.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Their findings suggest that the vitamin carries significant benefits apart from contributing to healthy bones.
“Vitamin D had a significant effect on lowering the risk of death among those with cancer, but unfortunately it didn’t show any proof that it could protect against getting cancer,” said Tarek Haykal, a lead author on the study and an internal medicine resident physician at Michigan State University and Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan.
The University says researchers analyzed data regarding "disease prevention from more than 79,000 patients in multiple studies that randomly compared the use of vitamin D to a placebo over at least a three-year period. Haykal and his team zeroed in on any information that involved cancer incidence and mortality."
“The difference in the mortality rate between the vitamin D and placebo groups was statistically significant enough that it showed just how important it might be among the cancer population,” Haykal said.
The exact amount of the vitamin and levels needed in the blood to be effective against cancer is still unknown.
“There are still many questions and more research is needed,” Haykal said. “All we can say is that at least three years of taking the supplement is required to see any effect.”
Results show enough promise, however, that Haykal would like to see more doctors, especially oncologists, prescribe vitamin D to patients in general.
View the full study here .