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Vitamin D Deficiency Behind Many Western Cancers?

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the need-a-supplement-now dept.

Biotech 478

twilight30 wrote us with a link to an article in the Globe and Mail. If further study bears out the findings, new research into the causative agents behind disease and cancer may have a drastic impact on the health of citizens in Canada and the US. According to a four-year clinical trial, there's a direct link between cancer and Vitamin D deficiency. "[The] trial involving 1,200 women, and found those taking the vitamin had about a 60-per-cent reduction in cancer incidence, compared with those who didn't take it, a drop so large — twice the impact on cancer attributed to smoking — it almost looks like a typographical error. And in an era of pricey medical advances, the reduction seems even more remarkable because it was achieved with an over-the-counter supplement costing pennies a day. One of the researchers who made the discovery, professor of medicine Robert Heaney of Creighton University in Nebraska, says vitamin D deficiency is showing up in so many illnesses besides cancer that nearly all disease figures in Canada and the U.S. will need to be re-evaluated. 'We don't really know what the status of chronic disease is in the North American population,' he said, 'until we normalize vitamin D status.'"

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now the counter argument... ? (3, Insightful)

lems1 (163074) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917337)

Now I'm waiting for another research showing that the intake of vitamin D causes some other serious illness...

So typical.

Re:now the counter argument... ? (1)

nullChris (222844) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917373)

... like cancer!

Re:now the counter argument... ? (4, Interesting)

Xiroth (917768) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917479)

Now I'm waiting for another research showing that the intake of vitamin D causes some other serious illness...

OK. Skin cancer. The main source of vitamin D in humans is through exposure to sunlight. Increase that without being careful and your risk of skin cancer goes up. Also, vitamin D overdosing from supplements is entirely possible and does have nasty side effects, although it's not possible from natural production due to exposure to sunlight.

There we go, cynicism confirmed, and it wasn't as bad as all that. Now, let's get down to reality: as vitamins, the vitamin D group have been identified as essential for human nutrition. Not useful, essential. As in, we would die without it. There's strong evidence, in fact, that the reason people that moved away from the equator developed paler skin was to maintain high production rates of vitamin D. So, quite frankly, even if the intake of vitamin D killed us, we'd have to have it as if we don't take it we die anyway, therefore the entire point is moot.

Re:now the counter argument... ? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18917745)

There's strong evidence, in fact, that the reason people that moved away from the equator developed paler skin was to maintain high production rates of vitamin D. So, quite frankly, even if the intake of vitamin D killed us, we'd have to have it as if we don't take it we die anyway, therefore the entire point is moot.

The 'skin colour' and latitude argument has been dismissed already by evolutionary biologists, not least because humans haven't actually been in Northern Europe for long enough for evolution to have played a role in developing the pale skin colour found there. In fact, American Indians have lived on the Equator in America for longer, yet they are lighter coloured than say, Africans.
As Jared Diamond puts in his book The Third Chimpanzee [] The variations we see in humans are more likely caused by the genetic variation of a few early settlers.
So please be careful when quoting 'strong evidence' when this is clearly not the case. Even Darwin was dismissive about this relationship.

Re:now the counter argument... ? (5, Insightful)

Bryan Ischo (893) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917815)

Name one race from a northern climate that has brown or black skin. You can't. There aren't any. Now name a race from an equatorial region that has white or light skin. Once again, you can't.

I'd say this is pretty strong evidence for the GP's point. Sure, there will be variations among races at the same latitude, I wouldn't be surprised if some equatorial people were darker than others. But I would also be surprised if there wasn't a STRONG correlation between latitude and skin color. It would seem really, really unlikely that this was "caused by genetic variation of a few settlers." Yeah, the light colored setters just randomly happened to move north, and the darker people stayed south. Sure.

And people weren't in northern europe long enough for evolution to have played a role? OK then how about China? Northern Chinese are very light-skinned, I know this from experience. And surprise, surprise - southern Chinese are alot darker. And don't you think that a 60% greater chance of disease due to vitamin D deficiency would be a strong evolutionary pressure? Strong enough to act over relatively short time periods on the evolutionary scale perhaps?

Anyway, if your evidence for this evolutionary biologists' "dismissal" of skin color's correlation to latitude is one book, that's pretty weak. Of course, it's still more evidence than I can submit.

Re:now the counter argument... ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18917921)

I think the word you're looking for is 'circumstantial'.

Re:now the counter argument... ? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18917991)

Given skin cancers tend to affect people long after they've reached 'breeding age', it's difficult to see how evolution would affect skin colour at all.
Perhaps the dark-skinned humans you mentioned spread out of Africa Eastwards, whereas the fair-skinned ones went Northwards.
Perhaps the human mind just likes to see patterns where there are none.

Next you'll be saying how Scandinavian Blue eyes enable them to see in the reduced light at their latitudes...

Re:now the counter argument... ? (1)

Xiroth (917768) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918173)

Skin cancer is only relevent when moving from less light to more light - I.e. whites moving back into Africa. Vitamin D deficiencies have impacts your entire life. Most of the peoples that moved north are lighter skinned across all three northern hemisphere continents except where snow is heavy (causing people to get hit by UV from two directions), so a simple explanation like that doesn't really add up.

I don't give a damn about eye colour in this context - as far as I know, that's irrelevent to the topic.

Re:now the counter argument... ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18918041)

Name one race from a northern climate that has brown or black skin.

The Inuit. The Mongols. The Ainu.

Thanks for playing!

Re:now the counter argument... ? (1, Interesting)

Xiroth (917768) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918243)

The Inuits' darker skin can be explained by the fact that they've historically lived in the snow, which reflects UV light, doubling their intake. I don't know under which definition you're calling Mongols dark skinned, because they certainly don't look it to me [] , nor do the similarly coloured Ainu.

This isn't exactly my field, though - do you have an example of why you'd call them dark skinned?

We are Caucasians. (4, Informative)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918111)

Our white skin color comes from the Caucasus mountains, north of Iran. That's why white people are called Caucasians. I had a woman friend whose ancestry was from northern Iran, and it was amazing to see how white she was, in a way I thought was beautiful. Comparing her skin and mine, it was easy to see that I am a mixture of Caucasian and something else.

Probably the reason northern people are white is that black people inter-marrying with a high concentration of white people tends to produce lighter-skinned new generations.

All humans apparently spread from an original migration from Africa, but the people who initially migrated tended to continue to migrate, and migrated much more than those who initially stayed in Africa.

Re:now the counter argument... ? (5, Interesting)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917791)


You also forgot to add that besides a number of major cancers Vitamin D defficiency also has clear links to obesity as well. Its defficiency in childhood results in soft tissue growth overtaking bone development and very quickly going down the fat kid spiral. Nearly every obese kid aged 7-14 has classic X legs which are a clear indication that he/she has gone through vitamin D defficiency at some point in their life (usually past the age of 2, earlier results in O-shape). For every 1 person the "Dip your child into factor 40 cream" cretins save from skin cancer tens will die of other vitamin D defficiency related illnesses.

Just look at Australia. It was the first to go into the "hide in the shade" overdrive and we constantly get Australian studies quoted about the dangers of sun onto us (without any corrections for the fact that the numbers should be corrected for different lattitudes). It now is the world leader in obesity overtaking the US.

It is proudly followed by surprise surprise - UK which has taken all AU studies and is applying them blindly despite being at way further from the Equator. It is quite funny, every time I get some "scary" number quoted I ask the origin and it ends up being Australia from the height of the Ozone hole period. In the UK there is a further complicating factor - GP incompetence. None of the UK GPs and health visitors carries out the standard checks for rachitis on children. Further to this, if you ask them they tell you not to worry. If a child in the age 3-18 months get an abnormal hair loss, they tell you to go get special shampoo for him instead of running blood tests (which the rest of EU does).

Re:now the counter argument... ? (1)

Winckle (870180) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918067)

X legs? Can you elaborate?

Re:now the counter argument... ? (1)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918149)

I believe he was referring to a symptom of rickets [] , which is caused by vitamin D deficiency.

Re:now the counter argument... ? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18918091)

The GPs are right. Rickets is practically non-existent in developed countries now among normal people. Almost any animal fat will contain vitamin D. No reasonable individual avoids sunlight enough to get rickets, it only really occurred in london during the london smog, when there was a very small amount of sunlight, AND no artificial sources.
A single 400 iu tablet (which you can buy at any pharmacy OTC) of vitamin D can prevent rickets for more than 2 months. How can you possibly think that you know better than the whole medical profession here?

Re:now the counter argument... ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18917821)

But it is UVB that is required to produce vitamin D, and it is UVC that produces sunburns. Handily enough, a window will block 90% of uvc but only 10% of UVB. So stand behind a window :) plus you can do this in winter too, though you'd have to wait for a sunny day, I suppose.

Re:now the counter argument... ? (2, Funny)

jonadab (583620) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918001)

> The main source of vitamin D in humans is through exposure to sunlight.

I'm pretty sure that's not true in my case. In the first place, I drink a lot of milk, which is most likely fortified with vitamin D, and in the second place, my skin is roughly the same color as milk, because I spend 165+ hours a week indoors.

Re:now the counter argument... ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18918221)'re gunning for cancer? Ah well, each to their own. I'm hoping for something a little less painful like a stroke or a heart attack, myself.

From the article, apparently you need to drink about 3 litres of fortified milk to get enough vitamin D.

Re:now the counter argument... ? (2, Insightful)

Detritus (11846) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917483)

You can poison yourself with excessive amounts of vitamin D. Then again, you can poison yourself with almost anything if you try hard enough.

Re:now the counter argument... ? (2, Insightful)

Gridpoet (634171) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917641)

Yes, you can indeed poison yourself... if you take 75,000IU a day!!!! a 1000IU pill (considered a 250% dosage by the FDA) is about .25 inches long and .15inches in width... you would have to take 75 of these a day to get poisoned... seriously, thats like an entire bottle a day....if your taking that many of the same vitamins you might want to see a psychologist... and a medical doctor to pump your stomach

i personally take 4000IU a day, due to several reaserch papers i've read pointing to this being a more appropiate dossage for healthy bone, joint and blood maintanance

Re:now the counter argument... ? (3, Informative)

Detritus (11846) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917987)

The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine has set the tolerable upper intake level for adults at 2000 IU. Going higher than that may cause problems. []

Re:now the counter argument... ? (2, Insightful)

kripkenstein (913150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917597)

Now I'm waiting for another research showing that the intake of vitamin D causes some other serious illness... So typical.
You are wise to be skeptical of such reports, but unwise if you disregard them completely. Yes, medical history is full of contradictions to previously known nutritional 'facts', and this one may be falsified in time as well. Yet, each case should be considered on its merits, not by some blanket "other research will show the opposite, so let's ignore them all".

Specifically, this vitamin D hypothesis has data backing it up (60% is a startlingly high number, but this will have to be replicated), as well as making sense on other levels (vitamin D levels have been dropping for various reasons stated in TFA). So this hypothesis is certainly one to watch.

Twofo GNAA (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18917339)

Faggots []

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Yeah... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18917353)

See the high suicide rate in Seattle is making more sense. We're not depressed, we're just getting the cancer before it gets us. Scorched Earth oncology.

Re:Yeah... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18917489)

Hmm, this is an interesting thought. If this Vitamin D theory is correct then those who are the least able to produce Vitamin D from sunlight should have the highest incidences of cancer--meaning those in the northern climates and those who have darker skin colors.

Re:Yeah... (1)

bytesex (112972) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917941)

So you would expect the rate of skin cancer among Ghaneans in Trondheim (for example) to be soaring. Then again, Norway has one of the best medical systems in the world, but you'd at least expect to see a correlation.

Re:Yeah... (3, Informative)

Knutsi (959723) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918161)

So you would expect the rate of skin cancer among Ghaneans in Trondheim (for example) to be soaring. Then again, Norway has one of the best medical systems in the world, but you'd at least expect to see a correlation.

According to this article [] , there is. The article is well written, and quotes the reference on this particular point to be:

Angwafo FF. Migration and prostate cancer: an international perspective. [] J Natl Med Assoc 1998 Nov; 90 (11 suppl):S720-3.

Re:Yeah... (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917829)

suicide rate in Seattle
Insufficient Startbucks

Is this as big as I think it is? (3, Insightful)

Lord Duran (834815) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917355)

60%. That's not a small number. Consider the possibilities: 60% of cancer reduced, just by using a standard vitamin pill. I think I'll head off to the pharmacy.

Re:Is this as big as I think it is? (3, Funny)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917371)

Well the study was only done with women Lord Duran. I don't think dressing up in women's clothing will get you the 60% boost in your cancer avoidance abilities.

Re:Is this as big as I think it is? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18917375)

Yes, poppin' pills is the answer! But then again, you could also get out of your house/office/hacker dungeon once in a while...

Re:Is this as big as I think it is? (2, Funny)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917397)

then again, you could also get out of your house/office/hacker dungeon once in a while...
Except wouldn't that result in an increase in cancer? [] I think I'll stay in my hacker dungeon thankyouverymuch.

Re:Is this as big as I think it is? (1)

Mountaineer1024 (1024367) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917799)

I like the fact that you've offered the choice of EITHER taking the pill or getting out of the dungeon.
For me with my pasty white skin that burns so easily, I think the pill is the way to go.
Sorry if you were trying to infer some bias one way or the other. :)

Quick Physiology Lesson (5, Informative)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917553)

I think I'll head off to the pharmacy.

Not so fast ;)

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and is present in meat products. Deficiency in Vitamin D causes rickets [] . Vitamin D is so-called, and many would think it was not available without a dietary source, but it is produced in the skin under the influence of UV light. It then gets processed by the liver, then 'activated' in the kidneys and off it goes and does good things.

Because it is fat soluble, it is unlike Vitamin C in that stores are steady and no Vitamin D production only starts to cause problems after several months.

Whilst Vitamin D requirements increase with age, sun exposure commonly decreases with age, especially in the elderly. Much of this is simply a lifestyle issue.

Importantly, Vitamin D is already known to have immunomodulatory activities (a well functioning immune system is critical in preventing cancer over time). It is also known to induce some cancers to self-destruct.

Re:Quick Physiology Lesson (1)

Splab (574204) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917757)

So we should get fatter and stay in the sun longer?

Guess mortality rate will stay at same levels then ;)

Re:Quick Physiology Lesson (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917781)

So we should get fatter and stay in the sun longer?
Actually, not as stupid as it sounds. At least then you'd be happier. It has been shown that decreased serum lipids predispose people to depression and suicide. Depression and stress itself promotes cancer. I guess if we managed to farm fish a bit more efficiently, it would really be something to think about. Problem though is, the fatso's you see in the street aren't eating too much fish, but too much MacDonald's which is practically devoid of any nutrients, as far as I can tell.

I guess it's true then! (1)

MasterGwaha (1033282) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918053)

The strong eat, the weak are MEAT......(Paid for by the Vitamin D council)

Amazing article, predictable ending (5, Funny)

mshurpik (198339) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917389)

TFA: >Referring to Linus Pauling, the famous U.S. advocate of vitamin C use as a cure for many illnesses, he said: "Basically, Linus Pauling was right, but he was off by one letter."

OK, who else had the feeling that they were going to bash vitamin C before the end of the article?

slashdot is deteriorating (5, Funny)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917603)

Hmm, bash, C and linus in one sentence and it isn't about Linux.

Re:slashdot is deteriorating (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18917717)

Nice :P

Re:slashdot is deteriorating (2, Interesting)

Phoz (241367) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917789)

Hmm, bash, C and linus in one sentence and it isn't about Linux.
For what it's worth, it seems (our) Linus was named after Pauling: []

Re:slashdot is deteriorating (1)

InfectedSector (811549) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918235)

That's because the article advocates going outside.

Re:Amazing article, predictable ending (1)

Rudeboy777 (214749) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917615)

Off by one letter? Who cares!

Now excuse me while I go back to kernel hacking in D.

Re:Amazing article, predictable ending (1)

christopherodonovan (925202) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918279)

Off by one errors are common when using C.

Hey Everybody! (5, Funny)

mavi_yelken (801565) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917393)

Get naked and get out! you know.. for Vitamin D synthesis.

Re:Hey Everybody! (5, Funny)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917637)

Get naked and get out! you know.. for Vitamin D synthesis.
The prospect of the Slashdot readership (overweight or skinny nerds) running about the streets naked, exposing their skin to the sun for the first time in years does not appeal to me. :-6

In fact, the sun reflecting off all that pasty-white flesh is likely to blind many people and cause traffic accidents.

Confusing (0, Redundant)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917399)

Let me get this straight. Vitamin D deficiency can be caused by a lack of sunlight, yet sun exposure can cause (skin) cancer.

Re:Confusing (3, Informative)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917413)

Yes. You see sunlight, like many things, [] too much of something can be lethal.

Re:Confusing (5, Interesting)

the_lesser_gatsby (449262) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917433)

The cancers are different and have different risks. As the article says, by limiting exposure to sunlight you're trading skin cancer (which is easily detected, quite easily treated and often not fatal) for the scarier cancers like bowel cancer which are implicated in a lot more deaths.

Re:Confusing (2, Funny)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917893)

Or you can just take pills and not worry about either...

Re:Confusing (1)

the_lesser_gatsby (449262) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917967)

Well yea, I've been supplementing vitamin D for a few years now. (I do D, selenium and alpha lipoic acid plus lots of veggies, fish and red wine) But I also think there are psychological benefits to sun exposure.

Re:Confusing (2, Informative)

mavi_yelken (801565) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917439)

According to the article, Vitamin D deficiency causes whole other nasty types of cancers of body like colon, breast etc. Skin cancer has a much better prognosis then the cancer of the inner body.
Also, we evolved in Africa. Surely evolution found a balance between cancer of skin and Vitamin D synthesis? Also, color of skin is basically the answer of natural selection to the latitude your ancestors migrated to.

Re:Confusing (1)

Don Sample (57699) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917449)

Skin cancer is both easy to diagnose (you can see it) and to treat. Many of the other cancers that vitamin D deficiency may cause are neither. To quote from the article: "Fifteen hundred Americans die every year from [skin cancers]. Fifteen hundred Americans die every day from the serious cancers."

Re:Confusing (1)

packeteer (566398) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917707)

Skin cancer is both easy to diagnose (you can see it) and to treat.

You can USUALLY see it. Also there is a lot of skin cancer types that look like something perfectly normal on your body. You were mostly right on your point but nobody should assume skin cancer is easy to detect and not to worry about it.

Not so confusing. (3, Insightful)

Hamster Lover (558288) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917451)

How is this confusing? Not enough sunlight may cause vitamin D deficiency, too much may cause cancer. Not enough food and you starve to death, too much and you grow obese and suffer related ailments.

Life is about balance.

Re:Confusing (2, Informative)

**loki969** (880141) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917485)

It seems that one needs to have a minimal amount of direct and "strong enough" sunlight on naked skin each week to have a sufficiant vitamin D3 supply. According to Wikipedia [] the minimal amount of sunlight is ten to fifteen minutes twice a week at sea level when the sun is more than 45 above the horizon. So skin cancer shouldn't be much of a problem.

I have to admit that after reading the headline, I was sceptical too. But after doing some reading, it seems to me that this story does make sense.

Re:Confusing (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918181)

I am not a doctor, but having lived near a very touristic beach, it's not necessary the exposure to the sun that generates skin cancer, but the repeatedly roasting of your skin for hours on end (as most do in the middle of summer) in the hottest temperatures of the sun. We saw bunches of tourists coming from the beach looking like boiled lobsters for days on end, we were recommended to go in the morning and the evening and stay out of the sun in the hottest parts of the day (between 1pm and 4pm). It's not only less dangerous, it's also more fun (less tourists, the sun going down in the sea and if it gets dark afterwards you get fluorescent algae on your skin and you can go skinny-dipping)

Whuh??? (1)

BriSTO(V)L (668928) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917427)

Something in this article sounds wrong, or else I have not understood it properly.

A 60% reduction in an illness by getting more vitamin D equates to a relative risk of 1.66 by not having sufficient vitamin D. The article states this is bigger than the cancer risk of smoking.

However, IIRC, the relative risk for lung cancer for smokers is more like > 20. So this article seems to have a baaad case of journalistic exageration going on...

Re:Whuh??? (1)

BriSTO(V)L (668928) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917437)

OK my maths was off - 60% reduction = RR 2.5

Just from personal experience ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18917631)

I have known lots of people who have died from cancer. I can't think of anyone I knew who died of lung cancer. I'm guessing that if you prevent 60% of breast cancers etc. that would be more people than if you prevented 100% of lung cancer.

Re:Just from personal experience ... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18917939)

The number of cases each year in the USA of breast and lung cancer are about equal, but the death rates are in the ratio of approximately 1:4. In other words you are much more likely to survive breast cancer. So this suggests that the effort should be on preventing lung cancer cases if the goal is to save the maximum number of lives. The implication is relatively simple: encourage people not to smoke. In any given year lung cancer currently kills twice as many women as breast cancer.

Re:Whuh??? (1)

crumley (12964) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917843)

A reporter who doesn't understand statistics? Who would have thunk it?

Well, that's it (0)

sycomonkey (666153) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917431)

Time for another helping of milk and cookies... For health reasons.

Come get some (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18917459)

What are the sources of vitamin D?

Fortified foods are the major dietary sources of vitamin D.4 Prior to the fortification of milk products in the 1930s, rickets (a bone disease seen in children) was a major public health problem in the United States. Milk in the United States is fortified with 10 micrograms (400 IU) of vitamin D per quart , and rickets is now uncommon in the US.7

One cup of vitamin D fortified milk supplies about one-fourth of the estimated daily need for this vitamin for adults. Although milk is fortified with vitamin D, dairy products made from milk such as cheese, yogurt, and ice cream are generally not fortified with vitamin D. Only a few foods naturally contain significant amounts of vitamin D, including fatty fish and fish oils 4. The table of selected food sources of vitamin D suggests dietary sources of vitamin D.
Exposure to sunlight

Exposure to sunlight is an important source of vitamin D. Ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight trigger vitamin D synthesis in the skin.7,8 Season, latitude, time of day, cloud cover, smog, and suncreens affect UV ray exposure.8 For example, in Boston the average amount of sunlight is insufficient to produce significant vitamin D synthesis in the skin from November through February. Sunscreens with a sun protection factor of 8 or greater will block UV rays that produce vitamin D, but it is still important to routinely use sunscreen whenever sun exposure is longer than 10 to 15 minutes. It is especially important for individuals with limited sun exposure to include good sources of vitamin D in their diet.

Re:Come get some (1)

Solra Bizna (716281) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918321)

If you're going to cut-and-paste like that, at least do the rest of us the courtesy of preserving the footnotes...


60% reduction in risk? (5, Informative)

aschoff_nodule (890870) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917515)

I believe that Vitamin D might protect against some cancers.

However, I do not agree that Vitamin D deficiency can be responsible for about 60% cancers.

Here are my reasons why:

1) The process of carcinogenesis (initiation of the first DNA mutation/ adduct required to form cancer to the stage of clinically overt disease) in most cases takes more than 4 years. This clinical trial is only 4 years and too premature to reach to conclusions.

2) I have yet to read the paper, but it is necessary to know whether this trial was truly randomized meaning that the those who got the Vitamin D pill and those who got the placebo were similar to each other in all other ways. It is possible that if it is not randomized, a healthier cohort of people chose to take Vitamin D for a long time.

3) It is also important to know how they treated those people who dropped out of taking the Vitamin D pills. It is possible that unhealthier people dropped out and then we were comparing all subjects in the placebo group to the "healthier" people in the Vitamin D group.

4) A risk reduction of 60% (= relative risk of 0.4) is epidemiologically very strong and if that was the case, we would have already found such a role of Vitamin D much earlier (like 30 years before or so). There is something called Bradford Hill's criteria for causation in epidemiology which has strength of association as one of the criteria. The rationale for that is if we had a confounder which is actually responsible for the effect, we would have known it before because it is more likely to have a stronger effect. The same principle goes here. We do not know anything that could prevents so many types of cancer with such great attributable fraction. The magnitude of effects of like 2.5 or reduction of risk to 0.4 were the strengths we used to see in the papers of 1970s. Hence I think there could be some issues with the study design and data analysis of this study if they found such a great magnitude of effect.

Having said that I think that Vitamin D might prevent many cancers, but I expect a lower magnitude of the effect.


Re:60% reduction in risk? (4, Insightful)

knapper_tech (813569) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917627)

You have yet to read the paper, but you do not agree that Vitamin D deficiency can be responsible for 60% of about cancers. Congratulations. You have a lifetime supply of straw man ashes.

All you did was list reasons why you're skeptical of the results, yet you haven't read the paper. Granted they are plausible reasons, someone who is capable of excercising this kind of critique could do the world a favor by reading the article to either confirm or address their skepticism and then posting their final interpretation of the article.

This post is like reading intial lab notes. I don't care what you're hunch is now if you can follow through on the data (do several hundred more experiments in the lab) and come to something more conclusive. The paper isn't a state secret. Read it.

Re:60% reduction in risk? (1)

djmurdoch (306849) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918257)

The paper isn't a state secret. Read it.

Did you see a link to a paper? I'd like to read it, but couldn't find one. Am I blind?

Less Cancer Among those who Buy Supplements? (2, Insightful)

mcrh (1050542) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917573)

Is it normal to be concerned that TFA doesn't appear to mention where the funding for this research came from?

Re:Less Cancer Among those who Buy Supplements? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18917661)

Yeah, I bet you it was the freakin' SUN, that Sun is always trying to sucker people into getting outdoors.

Vitamin D deficiency? Life style! (4, Insightful)

MavEtJu (241979) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917587)

Let me see... People roll from their bed into their car (via a door between the house and the garage), drive to work and park under the building. Lunch in the canteen, and in the evening the same path and sitting in front of the TV. 90% of the people in the apartment block I'm living in does live this way and get no direct sunlight for weeks. I think I found the reason why people have a vitamin D deficiency!

Vitamin D For Gaijin (2, Insightful)

knapper_tech (813569) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917589)

It took me about 20minutes of reading to confirm that living abroad has left some holes in my diet, and because of the mechanisms of vitamin D mentioned in the article, I've decided I need to pay a lot more attention to the local diet.

When I lived in the states, I was in Oklahoma and probably ate two or three bowls of cereal a day. Lots of milk. I am a cereal fanatic. As far as getting my vitamin d intake up, all the cereal coupled with the rest of the food I ate, the sunlight in Oklahoma, and being a cracker, I think I was probably okay.

Since coming to Japan, I get less sunlight for a variety of reasons and my dairy consumption has plummetted to near zero. If I get vitamin D fortified food, it's the half-and-half creamer in my coffee. At first when I read the article I was mildly alarmed for Japan since we eat almost no diary food over here, and I'm not sure if anything is vitamin d fortified, but then I read up on dietary sources of vitamin d and noticed that fish is generally a very good one.

I thought I was doing okay with the curry-rice, eggs, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Wendies, and the karatama-don (fried chicken, egg, rice). I think I'm going to pay attention to what's keeping the locals alive and start taking more trips to the sushi shop instead of Wendies as well as replacing the chicken in my curry with squid and whatever other fish I can get to survive being simmered for an hour.

In the end it means more green tea at the sushi shop and fewer big-double-curry-cheeseburgers, so I guess it's better for me in a lot of ways to get over some of the diet changes. I've been here for months and will be here for more, so I should be getting used to things by now.

Re:Vitamin D For Gaijin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18917683)

Squid is not fish. And how many vitamins do survive being simmered for an hour?

Re:Vitamin D For Gaijin (1, Offtopic)

knapper_tech (813569) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917779)

The issue is highly technical. Given the high penetrance of curry into any available sink material, foods with weak structural integrity will be overpressured by the diffusion of curry into the material with no corresponding outflow to balance the internal pressure. Many types of fish will incur multiple structual failures within the filet and, upon agitation prior to consumption, will dissintegrate, complicating consumption and lowering the throughput of nutriant flows.

Fish falls apart when you cook it. It's that simple. I use either chicken or squid because they are both available and squid is a very tough least until it's been curried. The real issue is that I use a lot of different ingredients including lots of onions, bell-peppers, or whatever else looks interesting at the supermarket as I can't tell that anything is capable of making curry unappetizing. It takes me about 30min just to get everything in the pot. When I find a fish that has decent vitamin d content and can stay in one piece (more than chicken at least, which squid doesn't seem to) I will use it in place of chicken.

Then there's the issue of making sure to add about five or six limes and boiling the shit out of it to make sure I cause any DNA strands to seperate. Wouldn't want those to survive that ultra hot 100C environment. Of course it varies depending on what types of molecular structures are present, but vitamins aren't the most complex or fragile ones in general. I could just take your word for it and die from eating nothing but cooked food...or at least I could try really hard.

Re:Vitamin D For Gaijin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18918155)

What on Earth are you talking about? DNA strands to separate? Curry into available sink material? WTF?

Re:Vitamin D For Gaijin (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918205)

Why do you think the Japanese eat their fish raw?

Re:Vitamin D For Gaijin (1)

am 2k (217885) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917715)

According to this page [] , rice and soy are also good sources, which should be easy to get in Asian countries.

Re:Vitamin D For Gaijin (1)

knapper_tech (813569) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917795)

Sweet. I have an excuse to vedge out on sushi all day. Fish, soy, and rice. The triumvirate of awesomeness ^_^ Maybe Asian happy faces are good for health to. I really appreciate the info!

Re:Vitamin D For Gaijin (1)

knapper_tech (813569) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917837)

I looked at the article a bit more. They say fortified rice and soy beverages. I doubt soy sauce falls into that category, and I can't read enough to determine anything about the rice. The search continues. Might concede and just buy some pills. Depends on how this gets accepted. Don't want to be an early adopter and have my skin turn orange [] .

Correlations vs. causation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18917605)

Does the research address the fact that this link could be correlation but not causation? I.e., people who take vitamin supplements might live healthier lives than the overall population...

Re:Correlations vs. causation (1)

gvc (167165) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917989)

To start with, this popular press article does not name the study, its authors, or the journal it is to appear in. i.e., the article is a puff piece.

That said, a placebo-controlled intervention can indeed show causality.

Really Bad Taste (2, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917671)

Okay, how long before we see:

Cancer patients in the hospital doing "Got Milk?" public service announcements?

Nudist colonies advertising the health benefits of their lifestyle?

Advertisements for anti-cancer tanning beds?

Some research paper by two male med students doing a paper on cancer in nudist lifestylers?

Spam email selling vitamin D pills at only twice the cost of c14li5? sponsored by 3400 people in the US and Russia

Advertisements for GM milk that has twice the cancer curative properties of normal milk? sponsored by Monsanto

A study linking cancer and baby formula vs. mother's milk? sponsored by Gerber

Research that shows the George Forman iGrill retains more vitamin D than any other meat preparation method?

ok.... I'm going to stop now

Re:Really Bad Taste (1)

grumling (94709) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918213)

Don't forget spam...

"Our growth supplements have more vitamin D than anyone else's, so you can achieve a thicker, fuller member and be confident that you'll not have to worry about cancer."

Go outdoors for a few minutes (3, Informative)

giafly (926567) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917695)

Only brief full-body exposures to bright summer sunshine -- of 10 or 15 minutes a day -- are needed to make high amounts of the vitamin. But most authorities, including Health Canada, have urged a total avoidance of strong sunlight or, alternatively, heavy use of sunscreen. Both recommendations will block almost all vitamin D synthesis.

Those studying the vitamin say the hide-from-sunlight advice has amounted to the health equivalent of a foolish poker trade. Anyone practising sun avoidance has traded the benefit of a reduced risk of skin cancer -- which is easy to detect and treat and seldom fatal -- for an increased risk of the scary, high-body-count cancers, such as breast, prostate and colon, that appear linked to vitamin D shortages [my highlights].

The sun advice has been misguided information "of just breathtaking proportions," said John Cannell, head of the Vitamin D Council, a non-profit, California-based organization.
Our modern diet is very different from what we evolved to eat. Better in some ways - few Westerners starve - but probably lower in many micronutrients [] than the ideal. So this type of report is not a surprise. Expect more.

Re:Go outdoors for a few minutes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18917903)

I can only hope that commencement speeches around the US begin with the words: "Don't Wear Sunscreen"

Re:Go outdoors for a few minutes (5, Insightful)

AmiAthena (798358) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917907)

Our modern diet is very different from what we evolved to eat. Better in some ways - few Westerners starve - but probably lower in many micronutrients than the ideal. So this type of report is not a surprise. Expect more.
QFT... the evolution of our dietary needs is exactly why so many of us do have weight issues. Everyone who's ever went on a diet or tried to eat healthier has one major complaint: all the stuff that tastes good is bad for you. But there's a reason for that! Cavemen didn't have Twinkies, Haagen-Dazs, and Big Macs. Protein, fat, and sugar/carbs were necessities to the developing human, and they were pretty scarce. Early man had green leafy stuff to eat as far as the eye could see, but it was work to kill something for food. So we evolved to have a greater affinity for these rare essentials.

Up until one or maybe two hundred years ago, this worked fine. Only the wealthy could afford to gorge themselves to dangerous levels of obesity. Today, for maybe $6, I can go to Burger King and get a Whopper, fries (King Size) and a Coke (King Size). According to BK's own meal-builder nutrition info, this meal has 1660 calories (650 from fat), 72 grams of fat, and 117g total sugars. And I didn't even put cheese on that Whopper. (And no Vitamin D as far as I can tell.) This is theoretically one out of three meals, supposedly totaling 2000 calories. In all likelihood, it's more like hald the day's calories than most. Meanwhile, the average modern American doesn't burn nearly as many calories Mr. Caveman did, since we survive by sitting in cubicles instead of hunting and gathering. Clearly, our ability to feed ourselves has improved to the point where the foods we naturally crave due to things coded in our genes thousands of years ago are actually harming us. For all the exotic things we can now eat because of technology, our range of nutrients sucks.

So it's hard to diet because as far as your body knows, that triple fudge brownie might be the the calories you burn not freezing to death tonight. And since you're body's so preoccupied with this now baseless fear of starvation, it forgets to make you want to eat things like broccoli or spinach, which our ancestors were probably eating to pass the time until some meat wandered close enough to kill. Call it evolutionary sabotage- what we needed before is not what we need now, and if we can't stay on top of those changes, we tend to die.

What about historic trends? (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917755)

People have been going much more to the beach in the last half-century than before. Even people in Nordic countries have been going to tropical countries during their vacations. People have been exposing more skin.

Do the epidemiological studies report a large drop in cancer starting about 50 years ago? Particularly in northern countries?

If vitamin D has any effect in cancer, these factors should stand out clearly.

So how much Vitamin D do I need? Need a number (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18917773)

You can find the official recommended intake amounts here [] though. There is 400 IU of vitamin D added to fortified milk (ref [] , so the article is recommending that one consume 1200 IU, but if you check the offical recommendations I linked to you can see they say 200 is enough. So they are saying the min. intake is currently too low, not just that people don't consume or synthesize enough due to inadequate sunlight.

        Another thing I found out is that you can't get an optimal amount of Vitamin D from supplements because it is all preformed vitamin D so your blood levels will track your intake, and nobody really knows exactly how much is best. When skin gets exposed to sunlight on the other hand, the vitamin D is stored and released appropriately to maintain the optimum concentration (assuming there's enough sunlight).....

Who said they were waiting to see that too much vitamin D causes some other serious illness? It causes "hypercalcemia", at least. If you were to consume a bottle of vitamin D supplements that would be lethal, if my memory serves correctly (and it's not a really small bottle). A bottle of halibut liver oil would also do it, though the vitamin A would get you first (In fact vitamin A overdose from consuming livers is how some arctic explorers died).

Can anyone make a useful comment about those sunlamp things, *please*? Do they output enough UV for vitamin D production? I have read that UV exposure below a certain intensity produces no vitamin d at all (it gets destroyed as a fast as it can be produced), but I don't remember the threshhold :(.... You also need UVB for vitamin D production, and I think most "sunlamps" or tanning lamps produce mostly UVA, as that can produce a tan but not a burn very easily. I think that would be the optimum solution - just point one of those sunlamp things at my chair and have it turn on for 15 minutes a day when I'm working. Apparently exposure of the face and forearms only, for 15 minutes at noon with clear skies at 75 degrees north, facing the sun, 3 times a week, is enough. Try getting a straighter answer from any other source - no, I had to cobble that together myself from the almost uselessly vauge recommendations authorities spit out and relative uvb intensities at my latitude.... to bad I forget the numbers I used. If you are behind a window it reduces the intensity of UVB by only about 10 percent. After 15 minutes or so the skin actually stops producing vitamin D so there's no point in exposing a specific area of skin for more than than amount of time in one day for this purpose. I think it takes at least 1 day to reset, but good luck finding that sort of thing out from medical literature...... I just want some dam numbers! If you get an "erythmal" exposure, that is past the saturation point. That's when your skin turns slightly pink, - from the UV, not the heat mind you-, and takes about 15 minutes in full sunlight.

There's some truth to this... (4, Informative)

Eggplant62 (120514) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917797)

The doctor that I work for has asked me to research this very line of thinking for her, pulling every article out I could find on multiple sclerosis (MS) and Vitamin D, and I even ended up using some of that research in a paper I wrote for an English class.

There's a very significant link between Vitamin D deficiency and MS. Most MS cases occur in the far north and far south climes. Think of southern Australia and Tasmania and northern Europe and United States, areas where sunshine is at low levels for as much as nine to ten months out of the year. We are able to make Vitamin D via sun exposure on the skin, which for humans, is a primary source of Vitamin D. Some of these studies find that people who had high levels of sun exposure as children greatly reduces their risk of contracting MS.

Don't believe me? Read these studies. There are tons more just like them, confirming the suspicion.

Re:There's some truth to this... (3, Informative)

solanum (80810) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917997)

Think of southern Australia and Tasmania... ...where sunshine is at low levels for as much as nine to ten months out of the year.
You are joking, southern Australia gets huge amounts of sunlight thus it has the one of the worlds highest rates of skin cancer. Don't forget that the latitude of the south coast of Australia is only about 36 degrees and that the southern hemisphere receives more sunlight than the northern hemisphere due to the eccentricity in the earth's orbit (and angle of axis). Most people in southern Australia have difficulty getting enough sunscreen on year round rather than getting enough sun exposure.

I am suspicious. (5, Interesting)

Killshot (724273) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917853)

Did you notice the link in the article to the vitamin D council?
Did you notice the doctor who did the study is part of the vitamin D council?
Although they are a non profit, they do provide links to lots of people who will be happy to sell you some vitamin D.

I work for a small biotech company that has been doing cancer research and we never put out a press release every time we think we are on to something interesting or promising. We do study after study not just to establish a link, but to understand exactly how a compound may stop or prevent cancer.
I wish people would take more time to ensure they have lots of data to go on before saying they have found a "direct link"

And on another note, I find it hard to believe that so many people are deficient in vitamin D.
We may spend a lot more time indoors than our ancestors, but I feel confident I am getting enough sunlight and enough D in foods i consume.

Re:I am suspicious. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18917993)

So the Vitamin D council does research on Vitamin D. Is this a big fucking suprise? Do they put out press releases when they find something interesting? God, that sounds like a non-profit. Your company has some serious regulations about fucking with investors. That's why they can't and don't. That and your company faces competition. If you let your competition on about something you're studying, they can pour money on it and scoop you. If someone pours money on the Vitamin D research and scooms the Vitamin D council, well, guess what, that's money the Vitamin D council didn't have to spend to get their objectives.

Go back to your cube and keep muttering "I hate bush, I hate oil" until you get some real work done.

Re:I am suspicious. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18918311)

Go back to your cube and keep muttering "I hate bush, I hate oil" until you get some real work done.

Oi, oi, don't throw us Bush Haters in with this fruit loop. There are many and varied reasons to hate Bush, and a fair percentage of them require no conspiracies whatsoever.

Re:I am suspicious. (1)

awfar (211405) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918051)

If it was anything other than Vitamin D, I would be as concerned with the conflict of interest as well. But Vitamin D is sprayed(I think) by the gallons on cereal and there cannot possibly be a huge, terribly lucrative market to be leveraged when the cheap solution is to go outside or bathe yourself in a sunlamp.

Re:I am suspicious. - I am not, no money in it (2, Informative)

harvey the nerd (582806) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918153)

Vitamin D3 (the good version) costs about 2c - 5c per 1000 IU tablet (2.5x RDA) at places like Costco, Swansons, Puritans Pride, Sams Club, Walmart etc depending on size bottle and frequent specials. Huge obscence profits, conspiracy to take over the world (sarcasm). However in northern latitudes like Canada, Alaska, Scandinavia, northern Russia, these are very basic health issues worked in a number of mainstream North Am medical schools despite rampant anti-vitamin politics. Score one for the med school researchers over the drug addled (and coddled) managements. I take mine with vitamin K and mixed tocopherols, the natural isomeric mixtures of vitamin E, all cheap online as well as separately with a *good* multivitamin without iron (like many men, I already had excess).

Re:I am suspicious. (1)

djmurdoch (306849) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918225)

The "conflict of interest" doesn't bother me, but the lack of a link to or citation of a published study does. Does anyone know where the real details about this study are available?

Also linked to Multiple Sclerosis (1)

SoopahMan (706062) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917861)

Sunlight exposure before the age of 16 has also been linked to occurence of Multiple Sclerosis. It's not clear whether this is because of Vitamin D production/regulation though.

From the medical perspective... (5, Interesting)

DrNickDonovan (1056132) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918113)

It's interesting to note that regardless of the type of cancer (save some of the forms of mesothelioma that you tie to chemical exposure) the majority of cancers can be traced back to oxidative stress. As a physician I've seen remarkable results with dropping the usual chemical approach and using super antioxidents such as Acai extracts and grape-seed extracts.) My fellow physicians need to get off of the chemical bandwagon and really do some research in this direction. Cheers, Nick

This is *so* Slashdot... (1)

Analein (1012793) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918287)

News: "Somebody cured cancer!" Slashdot: "Lol, N00b. Evidence or gtfo!"
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