People with lower vitamin D in their blood prior to treatment for a type of non-Hodgkins lymphoma die from the disease or relapse earlier than patients with sufficient levels, new research shows.
Vitamin D’s connection to cancer is an active research topic. Prior studies have shown a survival benefit among patients with higher vitamin D levels for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
Also, earlier research has shown that low vitamin D levels among women with breast cancer correlated with more aggressive tumors and poorer prognosis; and that vitamin D deficiency among African Americans might help to explain higher death rates from colorectal cancer.
Vitamin D supplements
The research is believed to be the first to report that lack of vitamin D is a potentially modifiable risk factor for this type of cancer.
For the study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers observed a total of 423 follicular lymphoma patients in two independent cohorts, who were followed for a minimum of five years and six months each. They measured patients’ baseline vitamin D blood levels before cancer treatment began, and then tracked and analyzed cancer survival data for each group.
Future research might support prescribing vitamin D supplements for patients at the earliest point of follicular lymphoma treatment, when patients are typically monitored closely but have not started active therapy, the researchers say. They also suggest that vitamin D may represent a proxy or biomarker for better health going into cancer treatment.
Follicular lymphoma is generally incurable although it’s slow-growing and many people live for years with the disease. Risk increases with age. An estimated 19,000 people are diagnosed with it each year.
Treatments have improved recently, although a subset of patients have an aggressive form for which therapy is not as effective. Better ways to predict the course of the disease are needed, therefore—and this is where vitamin D levels might provide a previously unidentified but modifiable factor associated with prognosis, says Jonathan W. Friedberg, director of the Wilmot Cancer Institute at University of Rochester Medical Center.
“Our data, replicated internationally, supports other published observations linking vitamin D deficiency with inferior cancer outcomes,” he says. “However, the mechanisms of this link are likely complex and require further study.”
Jennifer Kelly, an epidemiologist at URMC, is a coauthor of the study.
Source: University of Rochester