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Vitamin D cuts lung cancer death risk in non-smokers

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BY David Liu, PHD

Monday Nov 12, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- A new study in Cancer Causes & Control suggests that taking vitamin D supplements can help reduce risk of death from lung cancer, which is highly lethal.

Ting-Yuan David Cheng of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Marian L. Neuhouser of University of Washington in Seattle, WA conducted the study and found former/never smokers who had greater than 44 nmol/L of serum 25(OH)D were 47 percent less likely to die from lung cancer, compared with those having less than 44 nmol/L.

They also found that of never-smokers or smokers who had quit 20 years ago, those having greater than 44 nmol/L of vitamin D were 69 percent less likely to die from lung cancer, compared to those having less than 44 nmol/L.

However, these associations were not observed among those with excess circulating vitamin A, defined as having serum retinyl esters equal or greater than 7.0 μg/dL or the ratio of retinyl esters to retinol equal or greater than 0.08, and vitamin A/β-carotene supplement users.

One explanation is that excess vitamin A may disrupt vitamin D-mediated transcription of genes of interest, according to the authors.

For the study, researchers analysed data from 16,693 men and women in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) enrolled in 1988 to1994.  A total of 258 lung cancer deaths with 104 former smokers and 23 never smokers were identified as of 2006 from the National Death Index.

Serum vitamin D, retinol, β-carotene, and retinyl esters were measured while supplement use for the past month was self-reported.

If data from all participants were considered together, no association of serum 25(OH)D with lung cancer death risk was observed.   But a significant reduction in death risk was found in those who were non-smokers and had high serum levels of vitamin D.

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