Vitamin D & Cancer Death Risk
Does vitamin D play a role in your risk of dying from cancer? Vitamin D levels are correlated with a lower risk of developing cancer. Taking daily vitamin D does appear to correlate with a lower risk of dying from cancer. Many patients can live decades with cancer in remission. Taking vitamin D might help with that.
Professionally Reviewed by Charles Li, MD

TLDRVitamin D & Cancer Death Risk

Vitamin D & Cancer Risk

Vitamin D levels are correlated with a lower risk of developing cancer.

2. Vitamin D Supplements & Cancer

However, giving people vitamin D supplements has not been shown to help reduce the risk of cancer.

3. Vitamin D & Cancer Mortality

Interestingly however, taking daily vitamin D does appear to correlate with a lower risk of dying from cancer. Many patients can live decades with cancer in remission. Taking vitamin D supplements may help with that.

BackgroundAbout Vitamin D

Vitamin D is one of the most essential and controversial vitamins. Decades of studies have shown mixed results. One of the clearest benefits we know of with Vitamin D is its correlation with lower death rates from cancer.

what is it?
where to get it
Vitamin D
what is it?
Key Facts
  • type
    fat soluble
  • source
    diet, skin
  • other names
    calciferol, cholecalciferol
Appearance
Use List

bone growth

calcium

immunity

Vitamin D
where to get it
the sun

your body can create vitamin D with assistance from the sun

diet

some foods such as milk and fish contain vitamin D

supplements

Vitamin D can also be obtained from dietary supplements

Key facts: Vitamin D plays a key role in bone growth, calcium absorption, and your immune system. Unlike some vitamins, your body can produce it with the help of the sun. Sunlight helps catalyze a key reaction in the production of Vitamin D.

Study 1:Vitamin D & Cancer Death Risk

When cancer patients are given vitamin D, studies have found that they have a lower risk of dying from cancer.

Data Source

"The summary RR was 0.87 (95% CI, 0.79-0.96; P = 0.005; I2 = 0%), which was largely attributable to interventions with daily dosing (as opposed to infrequent bolus dosing). No statistically significant heterogeneity was observed by attained levels of circulating 25(OH)D (Pheterogeneity = 0.83), with RR being 0.88 (95% CI, 0.78-0.98; P = 0.02; I2 = 0%) for ≤100 nmol/l and 0.85 (95% CI, 0.70-1.03; P = 0.11; I2 = 0%) for >100 nmol/l."

Source: Vitamin D supplementation and total cancer incidence and mortality: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Study 2:Vitamin D & Total Mortality Risk

Similarly, taking vitamin D supplements may reduce your overall risk of dying at any given time.

Vitamin D & Total Mortality Risk

Vitamin D has been associated with a significantly lower risk of dying at any given time. Much of this reduction in risk of death is driven by Vitamin D's effect in reducing risk of cancer death.

Data Source:

" Corresponding to the 13% reduction in cancer mortality, there was a statistically significant 7% reduction in total mortality in our meta-analysis where cancer death (n = 1591) accounted for 33% of total death (n = 4872). "

Source: Vitamin D supplementation and total cancer incidence and mortality: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Study 3:Vitamin D & Cancer Risk

However, while vitamin D supplements help with reducing risk of death in cancer, it may not do a great job preventing cancer. Studies have shown that vitamin D supplements do not improve cancer risk.

Vitamin D & Invasive Cancer Risk: Clinical trial results chart

A clinical trial showed that vitamin D supplements did not reduce cancer risk. Researchers studied 25,871 participants over 5.3 years. Participants were randomized to receive either a placebo or a daily vitamin D supplement.

More Information:Cancer Mortality

More Info: Cancer Mortality

"In 2018, an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 609,640 people will die from the disease. The most common cancers (listed in descending order according to estimated new cases in 2018) are breast cancer, lung and bronchus cancer, prostate cancer, colon and rectum cancer, melanoma of the skin, bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, kidney and renal pelvis cancer, endometrial cancer, leukemia, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer, and liver cancer."

More Info: Taking Vitamin D Supplements

"From 1999 through 2014 the number of US adults taking daily vitamin D supplements of 1000 IU or more and 4000 IU or more increased. Overall, 3% of the population exceeded the tolerable upper limit of 4000 IU daily, and may be at risk of adverse effects as a consequence, and 18% exceeded 1000 IU daily, likely indicating intentionally seeking supplemental vitamin D. These findings extend a prior NHANES report documenting an increase in daily vitamin D supplement intake of 600 IU or more, particularly among women, non-Hispanic white populations, and older persons from 1988 through 2010."

Getting Enough Vitamin D

"There is considerable discussion of the serum concentrations of 25(OH)D associated with deficiency (e.g., rickets), adequacy for bone health, and optimal overall health, and cut points have not been developed by a scientific consensus process. Based on its review of data of vitamin D needs, a committee of the Institute of Medicine concluded that persons are at risk of vitamin D deficiency at serum 25(OH)D concentrations <30 nmol/L (<12 ng/mL). Some are potentially at risk for inadequacy at levels ranging from 30–50 nmol/L (12–20 ng/mL). Practically all people are sufficient at levels ≥50 nmol/L (≥20 ng/mL)"

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