The Vitamin D Cancer Connection
The Vitamin D Cancer Connection
Remember a few months back when I told you to stop what you’re doing and pick up a bottle of vitamin D for the winter? Well, we’re finally getting back to those longer, warmer days again. And you know what?
You still need that vitamin D.
In case you missed it, let me recap: Vitamin D is critical to your health. Your body manufactures it in response to sun exposure. But with regular sunscreen use and long hours spent at the office or otherwise indoors — not to mention the fact that most of us don’t live close enough to the equator to manage optimal vitamin D levels even in the height of summer — a lot of Americans are coming up predictably short.
And that’s a huge crisis. Because deficiency plays a role in a staggering list of chronic diseases — from diabetes to heart disease to depression...
Then, of course, there’s prostate cancer — which is what I want to talk to you about today. In our conversation last November, I told you about a recent study showing that men with vitamin D levels below 12 ng/mL were more than three times as likely to be diagnosed with an aggressive form of the disease following a prostate biopsy.
And as I also explained, aggressive prostate cancer is the kind of prostate cancer that kills. It moves fast, and it requires decisive action in the form of medical intervention.
So guys are lucky that this kind of aggressive disease is the exception, not the rule. And that, in most cases, prostate cancer progresses at a snail’s pace. In fact, most men will die with it well before they die from it.
Still, I also understand that this fact is pretty cold comfort when you’re faced with the news that you’ve got cancer. No matter what kind of cancer it is, it’s hard not to feel like your body’s host to a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off.
From this psychological perspective, “watching and waiting” can be tantamount to torture. Which is why a lot of guys opt for surgery — like radical prostatectomy, or prostate removal — that they simply don’t need.
And believe me, it’s not a fair trade-off. But we’ll get back to that...
For now, I want to turn your attention to another new study on vitamin D’s benefits for guys with prostate cancer... in the hopes that you’ll share this news with every other man you know.
This research was presented at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society back in March. It was a small study, featuring 37 men waiting to undergo radical prostatectomy, despite having low-grade tumors. (Protocol is to wait 60 days before surgery, to give inflammation from the biopsy a chance to subside.)
This waiting period provided the perfect opportunity for researchers to complete their preliminary randomized, controlled trial. Half the guys took 4,000 IU for the 60 days leading up to surgery. The other half took an inactive placebo.
As it turns out, vitamin D supplementation improved the cancer in more than 60% of the patients who took it — in some cases shrinking the tumor, and in others, obliterating the cancer entirely. Whereas in the placebo group, tumors remained unchanged at best.
Now, we aren’t likely to have a definitive word on this research for years, when a larger trial can be completed. But in the meantime, I think you can agree that this is really big stuff here.
Why? Because it effectively turns “watchful waiting” into “watchful action” for men with prostate cancer everywhere. And we’re not talking about action with irreversible side effects, like incontinence or impotence.
We’re talking about taking a single nutrient that your body needs to stay alive, anyway.
I shared my vitamin D protocol with you before, but this is the perfect opportunity to go back to it one more time...
Everyone should get routine vitamin D testing — it’s the only way to know for sure where you stand. That’s why I order the 25-hydroxy-vitamin D blood test for all of my patients automatically.
If your doctor doesn’t, ask for it. And make sure you ask for the numbers when the results come in, too. Because lab reference ranges dictate that anything between 30 ng/mL and 100 ng/mL is optimal. And that’s just not true.
The deficiency threshold for most clinical research may be 30 ng/mL. But you need to be well above that in order to really see benefits. I like my patients to be between 60 and 70 ng/mL. And anything below that mark deserves aggressive supplementation.
In other words, 600 IU just isn’t going to cut it. (Not for anyone, really — and certainly not if you have low levels of vitamin D to begin with.) In reality, 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 should be the absolute minimum maintenance dosage that you take.
If you’re a larger guy, packing a few extra pounds, have darker skin, or generally just don’t get outside much, you probably need a lot more than that. I generally start with 4,000 IU — the same dosage this study used. And sometimes, I’ll go as high as 10,000 IU daily. (Just bear in mind that at these high doses, you really need to be working with a doctor who’s monitoring your levels.)
And remember, this protocol stands year-round, full-stop. Because a daily dose of vitamin D may be able to reverse a slow-growing cancer. But wouldn’t you rather stop it in its tracks before it even starts?
I know I would.
Stay tuned and stay well,
Geo Espinosa, N.D., L.Ac, C.N.S., is a renowned naturopathic doctor recognized as an authority in integrative management of male and urological conditions. Dr. Geo is the founder and director of the Integrative Urology Center at New York University Langone Medical Center (NYULMC), a center of excellence in research and integrative treatments for urological conditions.