Lung cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada and the United States. Approximately 85% of lung cancer patients die within 5 years of their initial diagnosis. To that end, the researchers then looked for ways to prevent the risk of lung cancer than to treat it.
Sunshine and the risk of lung cancer
A study at the University of California (UC), San Diego, examines data across many continents and covers 111 countries. According to this study, the highest rates of lung cancer exist in countries located far from the equator, where sunlight, which is the main source of vitamin D for humans, is quite low. In addition, countries with high clouds and air aerosol levels also have a high risk of lung cancer. Although smoking is still considered a major cause of lung cancer, the results of this study show that vitamin D contained in sunlight, also plays an important role.
How does vitamin D lower the risk of lung cancer?
All cancers begin when cells divide erratically and uncontrollably, which then makes healthy cells turn into cancer cells. Vitamin D in sunlight encourages the release of certain chemicals that form substances such as glue. This substance keeps the cells together and thus prevents them from dividing uncontrollably and turning into cancer cells.
Vitamin D and survival rate of lung cancer patients
According to a recent study at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, vitamin D not only reduces the risk of lung cancer, but also can improve survival rates in patients who have been diagnosed with lung cancer. The researchers found that levels of CYP24A1 (a natural enzyme) in lung cancer patients were 50 times higher than in healthy lung tissue. The researchers also found that if levels of CYP24A1 rise, then the aggressiveness of cancer cells will also rise and can lead to death.
Then, what to do with vitamin D? The CYP24A1 enzyme works by damaging the active form of vitamin D in the body. Researchers are now trying to find a cure to prevent CYP24A1 levels from rising. This will be very useful, given that some patients who have surgery still contracting cancer again.
The researchers recommend taking vitamin D about 600 – 800 IU daily, but some scientists and naturopathic doctors consider that this figure is too low for cancer prevention. Of course the need for vitamin D in each person will vary depending on the residence, the sun in the area, skin color, and age. By being in the morning sun for 15 minutes, you may be able to get enough vitamin D to cut your risk of developing lung cancer.