Photo of fingers holding a vitamin D capsule
Men of European and African origin are at risk of agressive prostate cancer if they are vitamin D deficient

Vitamin D deficiency linked to aggressive prostate cancer

5 May, 2014

Natural Health News — Men at high risk of prostate cancer are more likely to be diagnosed with an aggressive form of the disease if they are deficient in vitamin D, according to a new study.

To reach their findings, researchers at from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) enrolled 275 European-American men and 273 African-American men to the study between 2009 and 2013.

The men were aged between 40 and 79 years and were undergoing an initial prostate biopsy after abnormal prostate-specific antigen (PSA) or digital rectal examination (DRE) test results. A prostate cancer diagnosis from their biopsy was given to 168 men from each group.

In order to determine the levels of vitamin D in the men, the researchers measured levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OH D) in their blood. The normal range of 25-OH D is 30 to 80 nanograms per millilitre (ng/ml).

The researchers then divided the men into groups dependent on their 25-OH D levels. They were:

  • Less than 12 ng/ml
  • Less than 16 ng/ml
  • Less than 20 ng/ml
  • Less than 30 ng/ml.

The highest 25-OH D level found in European-American men was 71 ng/ml, while the highest level found in African-American men was only 45 ng/ml.

The team found that the average 25-OH D levels of African-American men were much lower than that of European-American men, at 16.7 ng/ml and 19.3 ng/ml, respectively.

Lower levels, higher risk

What’s more, according to the study in Clinical Cancer Research, the lower a man’s vitamin D levels, the higher their risk of prostate cancer.

“These men, with severe vitamin D deficiency, had greater odds of advanced grade and advanced stage of tumours within or outside the prostate,” said Adam B. Murphy, M.D., lead author of the study.

For example, European-American men and African-American men had 3.66 times and 4.89 times increased odds of having aggressive prostate cancer respectively and 2.42 times and 4.22 times increased odds of having tumour stage T2b or higher, respectively.

African-American men with severe vitamin D deficiency also had 2.43 times increased odds of being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

“Vitamin D deficiency is more common and severe in people with darker skin and it could be that this deficiency is a contributor to prostate cancer progression among African-Americans,” Murphy said. “Our findings imply that vitamin D deficiency is a bigger contributor to African-American prostate cancer.”

Unless it is severe, vitamin D deficiency is fairly asymptomatic, so more effort needs to be put on screening, Murphy said.

“It is a good idea to get your levels checked on a yearly basis,” Murphy said. “If you are deficient, you and your doctor can make a plan on how to reverse it through diet, supplements or other therapies.”