Long touted for its role in keeping bones strong — vitamin D also may be important in preventing colon cancer.
New research from the American Cancer Society and other public health groups finds people with higher than recommended blood levels of vitamin D have a lower risk of developing colorectal cancer. The finding was particularly significant for women, NBC News reports.
The opposite may also be true: people with a vitamin D deficiency were found to have an increased risk for the disease.
The new research project combines data on more than 12,000 people in Europe, Asia and the U.S.
“Participants who had vitamin D levels that were higher than the recommended levels had a statistically significant 22 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer,” said Marjorie McCullough, senior scientific director at the American Cancer Society.
But some outside experts say more research is needed before doctors recommend vitamin D supplements specifically for colon cancer prevention.
Dr. Zhaoping Li, director at the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, said the research is informative, but does not prove increasing vitamin D levels would prevent colon cancer. Instead, “this gives us a good reason to invest time and effort to see whether vitamin D can have an impact on colon cancer incidence,” said Li.
“This is not the smoking gun,” she said. Li was not involved with this latest American Cancer Society study.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer and third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. And there’s been a worrisome rise in the number of younger adults diagnosed with the disease.