The health benefits of vitamin D are almost becoming too numerous to count, with yet another new study presented at the recent American Association for Cancer Research Pancreatic Cancer Conference in Lake Tahoe, Nev., shedding light on the hormone’s specific anti-cancer benefits. According to the groundbreaking research, individuals exposed to natural sunlight, which is the most abundant source of natural vitamin D, are nearly 50 percent less likely to develop pancreatic cancer than others who are not exposed.
Dr. Rachel Neale, Ph.D., and her colleagues from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Brisbane, Australia, conducted a case-control study in which 704 patients with pancreatic cancer, and 709 healthy individuals with no history of pancreatic cancer, were evaluated based on blood serum levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D, the hormonal marker of vitamin D in the body. Each individual’s birth location, skin cancer history, skin cancer type, tanning ability, and predisposition to sunburn was also taken into account.
The team then used NASA’s Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer to assess each participant’s level of ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure to his or her birthplace, the data of which was used to place participants into various tertile groups for average UV radiation exposure. At the end of the day, researchers found that participants who lived in areas with the highest amount of sunlight exposure were 24 percent less likely to develop pancreatic cancer than individuals who lived in low sunlight areas.
Additionally, individuals with the most sun-sensitive skin, who are typically lighter-skinned individuals, were found to be roughly 50 percent less likely to develop pancreatic cancer than individuals with the least amount of sun sensitivity. Overall, there was a direct correlation between high sunlight exposure and low rates of pancreatic cancer in the study, a result that suggests vitamin D plays a critical role in pancreatic cancer prevention.
“High levels of vitamin D are associated with a lower risk of pancreatic cancer based on both observational studies of individuals and geographic studies of populations,” writes the Vitamin D Council on their website. “Based on studies of breast, colon, and rectal cancer, vitamin D levels above 40 ng/mL (100 nmol/L) reduce the risk of cancer. Thus, maintaining vitamin D blood levels above 40 ng/mL may reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer.”
Vitamin D, which is actually a pro-hormone, actually plays an important role in regulating the entire human genome. 1,25-dihidroxyvitamin D, also known as calcitriol, is responsible for unlocking the more than 2,700 genetic binding sites specifically designed for it that are located throughout the human body. And every single one of the genes affected by calcitriol plays a role in the onset of most major human diseases.
What this means is that vitamin D deficiency can cause all sorts of illnesses, including everything from simple colds and influenza to chronic diseases like heart failure and cancer. And since vitamin D can really only be obtained in adequate amounts through natural sunlight or supplementation with high doses of vitamin D3, it is crucial that every individual pay close attention to his or her vitamin D levels.
The best way to obtain vitamin D is through natural sunlight exposure. A fair-skinned person can produce enough vitamin D from about 15 minutes of direct sunlight exposure during the peak summer months, while a darker-skinned person may need as much as an hour-and-a-half of sunlight exposure. Sunscreens are designed to block out the UV rays responsible for vitamin D production in the skin, so it is important not to wear sunscreen when trying to obtain vitamin D from the sun (http://www.vitamindcouncil.org).
Another option is to supplement with vitamin D3. The government’s recommended daily amount (RDA) for vitamin D is still too low, as most people need to take anywhere from 1,000 – 10,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D3 every day to maintain adequate blood levels. If you are unsure about your vitamin D levels, you may wish to have a blood test taken to determine what is an appropriate amount of vitamin D with which to supplement (http://www.vitamindcouncil.org).
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