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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.

Vitamin D and DNA repair

Below is a paper that challenges my comprehension of biology. Unbelievably, scientists have identified at least five genes that code for DNA repair proteins, whose only job is to fix your DNA when it is broken. Professor James Fleet of Purdue University and his colleagues authored an excellent detailed review of how vitamin D helps prevent cancer and he almost offhandedly mentioned DNA repair as one of vitamin D’s mechanisms of action in cancer. Remember, vitamin D has as many mechanisms of action as genes it regulates.

Fleet JC, Desmet M, Johnson R, Li Y. Vitamin D and cancer: a review of molecular mechanisms. Biochem J. 2012 Jan 1;441(1):61-76.

What amazed me was the first full paragraph on page 66 of Professor Fleet’s review, which starts by saying,

“There is some evidence that (vitamin D) regulates genes for proteins that protect the genome.”

He ends the paragraph by saying,

“Taken together, it is possible that (vitamin D) directly regulates the expression of a variety of genes whose protein products are involved in DNA damage repair . . .”

Then I emailed as many geneticists and vitamin D experts as I know and none of them knew much about it. Then, I discovered that a separate journal is devoted to DNA repair, appropriately called “DNA Repair.” When I searched that entire journal for vitamin D, I got 11 hits, none of which has to do with vitamin D’s role in repairing the genome. I don’t know why I am so amazed at this, perhaps it is my ignorance of genetics. However, I have some questions that the experts cannot answer:

  1. How many DNA repair genes does vitamin D upregulate?
  2. Do the proteins they upregulate all have different mechanism of action in repairing DNA?
  3. When activated vitamin D stimulates these DNA repair genes, is the upregulation profound or only minimal?
  4. Do these DNA repair proteins repair small inherited mutations or only the ongoing DNA damage we suffer from living in the solar system?
  5. What happens if you give pharmacological doses of vitamin D to people suffering from a single gene autosomal recessive illness, like cystic fibrosis?

As far as I can tell, no one knows the answers to these questions. While we wait, if you know anyone with a single gene genetic disorder, like cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia, why not get their vitamin D up to high normal. No risk is involved and who knows if improvement will occur. It is simple (albeit somewhat fantastic) logic.

  About: John Cannell, MD

Dr. John Cannell is founder of the Vitamin D Council. He has written many peer-reviewed papers on vitamin D and speaks frequently across the United States on the subject. Dr. Cannell holds an M.D. and has served the medical field as a general practitioner, emergency physician, and psychiatrist.

5 Responses to Vitamin D and DNA repair

  1. PeterVermont says:

    DNA repair usually works by correcting one strand to match another template strand. It would not fix an inherited mutation where no correct template strand exists

  2. mdweck says:

    Hi DR Cannell
    My friend’s 17 year old daughter has Lafora progressive myoclonus epilepsy, a genetic disorder with no known cure.
    Do you think vitamin D supplementation might slow the progression of this terrible disease?

  3. John says:

    hi Dr
    There is something to this b/c my wife has (had?) some type of error on her X chromosomes affecting the development of boys as evidenced by several miscarriages. However, after her D levels were raised for a few years we did infact have a perfectly healthy boy. Go D!

  4. Excellent. My wife’s 17 years old student’s oncologist is having her take 10,000 IU a day. She has a stage 4 cancer (digestive region) and last time I saw her, she looked healthy to me. She is still undergoing chemotherapy, I think 3rd or 4th round so far with a few more to go. No hair loss or anything. You couldn’t tell at all by looking at her.

    I recently found out from a friend who told me that his friend’s doctor is having the patient take vitamin D supplement but my friend doesn’t know all the details. So that’s two doctors in Texas so far…