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Information on the latest vitamin D news and research.

Find out more information on deficiency, supplementation, sun exposure, and how vitamin D relates to your health.

New review: Does vitamin D supplementation help cancer patients?

In a recent review article published in Nutrition Reviews, a group of Australian researchers analyzed the vitamin D levels of cancer patients to determine how many were deficient in the vitamin and how this was affecting their health.

Teleni L, Baker J, Koczwara B, et al. Clinical outcomes of vitamin D deficiency and supplementation in cancer patients. Nutr Rev. 2013;71(9):611-21.

Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency is a global health problem, and it is even more common for cancer patients in the US to have lower vitamin D levels than adults in the general population.

In the studies this particular review looked at, 31% of the cancer patients were vitamin D deficient while 67% were insufficient. Previous research suggests that cancer patients with low vitamin D levels have poorer health and survival rates, but it is uncertain if taking vitamin D can help in these areas.

The authors looked at the results of 36 studies of cancer patients that reported vitamin D levels at or after diagnosis. Most of the studies were conducted in the United States and looked at women with breast cancer, but other types of cancer were included too.

The main results in their review were:

  • Vitamin D deficiency was most common in patients with cancer of the blood, bones, and lymph nodes.
  • The more overweight the patients were, the more likely they were to be low in vitamin D.
  • At least 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day was required to raise blood levels. Lower amounts did not improve vitamin D status.
  • The evidence for vitamin D reducing fractures, pain, and risk of death was mixed.

There are many reasons that could explain why some of the studies showed benefit of vitamin D for fractures, pain and risk of death while others did not. Many studies gave less than 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day and most only lasted for between two and four months. This is probably not long enough to know if vitamin D is doing anything or not. Another problem was that some of the studies did not test vitamin D levels until up to 270 days after diagnosis, so in these cases it is impossible to know what the blood levels of the patients were when they were diagnosed with cancer.

Because many of the positive results came from studies that gave people enough vitamin D to have blood levels higher than what the government recommends, we won’t know for sure just how much vitamin D can help people with cancer until more well-designed studies giving people higher amounts of vitamin D are conducted. In the mean time, if you have cancer, work with your doctor or nutritionist to take enough vitamin D to maintain sufficient vitamin D levels.

  About: Rebecca Oshiro

Rebecca has a master of science degree in nutrition from Bastyr University where she conducted a university-funded study on vitamin D and athletic performance. She has a certificate in applied behavior analysis from the Florida Institute of Technology, and her passion is using behavioral technologies to assist others in making meaningful changes in their lives.

8 Responses to New review: Does vitamin D supplementation help cancer patients?

  1. westexas@aol.com says:

    Any comments about the a new study about Vitamin D?


    The first question I would have is what dosage of Vitamin D were they giving the people in the study group? Just the RDA or something close to it?

  2. Rebecca Oshiro says:

    The majority of the 37 studies analyzed in this review were observational and only looked at blood levels of vitamin D and how it correlated with various health outcomes. Of the trials that administered vitamin D, anywhere from 400 IU to to 14,000 IU per day was administered. Some of those trials administered D daily, others weekly.

  3. Rita and Misty says:

    Everyone needs to have a healthy 25(OH)D level.

    But, what is a healthy 25(OH)D level?

    Does a higher level prevent cancer and/or autoimmune disease?
    What level would this be?

    Could a higher level treat cancer and/or autoimmune disease?
    What level would this be?

    How can consensus be reached regarding definition of healthy 25(OH)D level?

    Is it 20 ng/ml?

    Is it 30 ng/ml–100 ng/ml?

    Is it 40 ng/ml–60 ng/ml?

    Is it 50 ng/ml–80 ng/ml?

    Is it possible that different health conditions require higher (or lower) levels?

    Is it possible that individuals are unique in their 25(OH)D requirements?

    (so many questions, so little time–and so little money)


  4. westexas@aol.com says:

    Here’s a link to the abstract of the article that is discussed above (study casts doubt):


    Of the studies that the authors reviewed, I wonder what the longer term and higher Vitamin D dosage studies would show? Given the preponderance of evidence in other studies, I am puzzled by their assertion that “High 25(OH)D concentrations were not associated with a lower risk of cancer, except colorectal cancer.”

  5. Rita and Misty says:

    “All women over the age of 20 should take a daily dose of Vitamin D to reduce their chances of developing breast cancer, an expert claims.”

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2516241/Top-surgeon-calls-ALL-women-given-Vitamin-D-cut-breast-cancer–ballet-dancers-reveal-use-pills-strong.html#ixzz2mkScmH62
    Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook


    To me it seems that we live from study to study; and one study seems to contradict the next study. It’s very frustrating.

    I would think that anything that helps in lowering inflammation would also be very useful in lowering overall cancer risk.

    My opinion only…uncertain if it right or wrong, etc.


  6. Jeff Nicklas says:

    @westexas, we’ve now published a blog on that Lancet study: http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/blog/a-look-at-the-recent-lancet-review-study/

  7. Chris says:

    Mayo Clinic, Vitamin D and a form of leukemia:


  8. There are 3 areas where Vitamin D may be helpful with cancer:

    * Prevention
    * Treatment
    * Reduce side effects

    Read more at: http://www.vitamindcouncil.org & http://www.grassrootshealth.net & http://www.vitamindwiki.com about how Vitamin D can help reduce the risk of cancer. Diet and lifestyle also play a big part

    If you are diagnosed with cancer, read as much as you can at these websites within the first 7 days to educate yourself.

    You may believe that the doctors are “gods” who are going to save your life, but you need to ask 2 key questions at every stage:

    1. What is the risk of this treatment and what success rate have you had ?
    2. “I understand that most treatment is designed to “kill” the cancer.
    What advice can you give me about helping my body to heal itself ?”

    Ask your doctor if you may take large amounts of Vitamin D and listen carefully to their reply

    Some cancer treatment can be enhanced by Vitamin D, so discuss this with your doctor

    Most doctors do not understand the effect of Nutrition & Exercise, so find an additional advisor like a Nutritionist, Dietitian or even a Chiropractor who does

    Reduce Side Effects
    Some cancer treatment, especially Aromatase Inhibitors given for 5 years after breast cancer surgery, cause horrendous aches and pains in joints. There are studies showing that high doses of Vitamin D can help reduce the pain

    At all stages you can read more at:

    http://www.vitamindcouncil.org Search by illness
    http://www.grassrootshealth.net Download the “Call-To-Action”
    http://www.vitamindwiki.com Read and search in 50+ languages
    http://www.vitamindassociation.org Watch videos from 4 conferences
    http://www.vitaminduk.com How much do I need

    Hope that this helps