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Dr. Gregory Pais, ND
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Home arrow Blog arrow CANCER AND VITAMIN D
It has been assumed that the high cancer prevalence in Western nations (all in the northern latitudes) is an inevitable consequence of the chemical, radiological, and biological pollution these countries produce. Whether it's the radioactive waste from nuclear power plants, the pesticides on commercial foods, the plastics and chemicals of industry, carcinogenicity is a common denominator. These causes are not in doubt. However, a new factor is seemingly coming into play-vitamin D deficiency.

How does vitamin D deficiency exist you might ask?  Don't they put it in foods like milk? It is true that many years ago commercial cow's milk was 'fortified' with vitamin D2. The problem is that vitamin D2, or ergocalciferol, is a cheap, often plant-sourced alternative to vitamin D3, cholecalciferol, the form we need. Taking D2 orally is a very ineffective way of getting vitamin D. So dairy products supplemented with D2 will not help with a vitamin D deficiency. Of course, the main way to get vitamin D is through sun exposure. Sunshine is a significant source of vitamin D because ultraviolet B rays, the same rays that cause sunburns and skin cancer, trigger vitamin D synthesis in the skin.

But for the last 10+ years everyone has been told to stay out of the sun to prevent skin cancer. This inappropriate prescription has had the predictable effect of causing people to not get enough vitamin D. For those in the northern latitudes, like Pennsylvania, where winters and other times of the year can be quite cloudy, it's a triple whammy. Not enough vitamin D due to poor solar insolation, from staying out of the sun, and the wrong form in dairy foods. It's even worse as most people tend not to be outside during daylight hours.

In recent research lack of vitamin D has been associated with breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer and other serious ailments like multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, and diabetes. In June the results of a 4-year study of 1200 women will be published. Those women who took vitamin D3, cholecalciferol, had a 60% reduction in cancer incidence.

The risk here is that everyone will indiscriminately start taking vitamin D based on some clerk's recommendation in a store. Or start going to tanning salons. Both of these would be a mistake. I highly recommend that, before you start taking vitamin D, you get a vitamin D test to check your levels. This is a simple blood test that goes by the following names:
25 hydroxyvitamin D
25 (OH) vitamin D
vitamin D3

If you want to check your levels this is the only test that is clinically useful. Locally, physicians and laboratories are just now coming up to speed. Often, they still order the wrong test, 1, 25 dihydroxyvitamin D-an indicator of kidney disease. The results of this test do not give your vitamin D status. One other issue is that the standard reference range for vitamin D status-30-100 ng/dL, has not caught up to current research. For disease prevention and treatment optimum levels of vitamin D are 50-60 ng/dL.


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