May 08, 2014 12:14 ET

Vitamin D: A Sunny Outlook for Prostate Cancer

New Research Finds Link Between Vitamin D Deficiency and Prostate Cancer Risk; Sun and Supplements May Help, Says Robotic Prostate Surgeon, David B. Samadi, MD

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - May 8, 2014) - Vitamin D deficiency could be a predictor for aggressive prostate cancer, according to a study funded by The National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Defense. In examining the prostate biopsy results of men with abnormal prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels and/or digital rectal exams (DREs), researchers discovered that men with low vitamin D levels were more likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer and to be diagnosed with advanced-stage tumors.

"The good news is that vitamin D deficiency is very easy to address," said David B. Samadi, MD, Chairman of Urology and Chief of Robotic Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital. "If we look at low vitamin D as a potential biomarker for prostate cancer and add it to annual blood panels, we can identify men who need to boost their levels. Increasing vitamin D levels is easily accomplished through supplements and even good old fashioned sun exposure."

Among the 600 Chicago-area study participants, African American men with low vitamin D levels were almost five times more likely to have aggressive prostate cancer; European American men with low levels were more than three times as likely. Both groups also showed increased odds of more advanced tumor staging at diagnosis; more than four times and nearly three times more likely for African American and European-American men, respectively.

According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, African American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer than Caucasian men overall, and are two-and-a-half times more likely to succumb to the disease. Researchers also point out that darker skin can interfere with vitamin D absorption, which could cause lower levels in these men and contribute to their increased risk of prostate cancer.

"The African American men in the study who were severely deficient in vitamin D were almost two-and-a-half times more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. If we look at their already increased risk of the disease and the possibility that low vitamin D may predict or accelerate prostate cancer, we have a very actionable opportunity to improve their odds," said Dr. Samadi.

The vitamin D prostate cancer study was lead by Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Results were published in the May 1 Clinical Cancer Research journal by the American Association for Cancer Research,

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