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Vitamin D levels and multiple myeloma

Posted Dec 10 2009 12:00am

This is a continuation of yesterday’s post. Well, knock me down with a cat’s whisker! I am really pleased with what I found on PubMed: quite a few studies on multiple myeloma and vitamin D levels. Almost 100, in fact! I don’t have time to go through ALL of them (hah)…I have looked only at some of the studies listed on page 1, and I don’t have the full studies with one exception (see below), but the abstracts contain enough information—for now, at least.

For instance, this July 2009 Mayo Clinic study concludes that vitamin D deficiency may portend poorer outcomes in subjects with MM (see: http://tinyurl.com/yz67bxn). Of the 148 newly diagnosed multiple myeloma patients scrutinized at the Mayo Clinic over a period of four years, the ones with vitamin D deficiency had higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) and creatinine AND lower serum albumin compared to patients with normal vitamin D levels. Eh that’s not good at all! Furthermore, the D-deficiency increased in parallel with the International Staging System…that is, patients in Stage III were more vitamin-D deficient compared to those in Stage II.

A more recently-published study, http://tinyurl.com/yzxt288, simply mentions myeloma: A vitamin D deficiency has also been documented in patients with prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, as well as multiple myeloma. Larger randomized clinical trials should be undertaken in humans to establish the role of vitamin D supplementation in the prevention of these cancers. I couldn’t agree more.

Truth be told, I am very busy today, so I have time only to post about one more study, titled “Prevalence and significance of vitamin D deficiency in multiple myeloma patients,” published in the British Journal of Haematology in May 2008. The full text is available for free online: http://tinyurl.com/yf8fahx It’s only three pages long, so please go have a look. Good stuff!

This study was conducted on 100 myeloma patients seen at the University of Maryland between September 2006 and October 2006. Of these, 40% turned out to be vitamin D-deficient. FORTY PERCENT…makes you pause for thought, eh? And have a look at this percentage: only 25% had adequate vitamin D levels, defined as more than 75 nmol/l. Eh.

Important: There were no significant correlations between vitamin D status and MM activity (remission, relapsed or newly diagnosed), presence or absence of lytic bone disease and/or fractures or history of osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ). So vitamin D didn’t do any harm, which is an important bit of news for us. I was concerned about increased serum calcium and whatnot when I began supplementing with vitamin D last spring. No worries now…

The following excerpt confirms what my endocrinologist told me, that is, that my highish parathyroid hormone, or PTH, levels (for info on PTH, see http://tinyurl.com/ch8za) are connected to my low vitamin D levels: Patients in the vitamin D deficient and insufficient groups had higher serum PTH levels than those in the sufficient group. Interestingly, PTH levels were also higher in patients with renal insufficiency. And in patients with bone pain. Gee whiz. If you have high PTH levels, read this part carefully…

Then on page 2 we are given actual vitamin D supplementation numbers, which is very helpful. The vitamin D-deficient patients were given a huge amount of vitamin D (you will find the exact numbers in the study) until they reached the optimal level of 75 nmol/l, at which point they received maintenance therapy consisting of 1000 IU (international units) of vitamin D3 per day.

Wait. Pause for a moment…a question just popped into my head: on the recommendation of my endocrinologist, I am taking vitamin D3, cholecalciferol, but the folks in the study were given vitamin D2, ergocalciferol. Any comments on this? What form of vitamin D are you taking?

Let’s read on: Responses were favourable in most patients, with increases in 25(OH)D and decreases in PTH levels, even in patients with renal insufficiency. Many symptoms of vitamin D deficiency resolved after supplementation, including muscle weakness (n = 7), fatigue (n = 7) and chronic bone pain (n = 10). Well, this is very good to know. Unfortunately, many of these patients relapsed after one year, but this had nothing to do with their vitamin D levels.

A final excerpt: The present study found a high incidence of vitamin D deficiency in MM patients. Vitamin D deficiency was independent of age, sex and disease status; the lack of sun exposure because of limited activity may play a role. A recent update of the American Society of Clinical Oncology recommendations for bisphosphonates use in MM did not mention the role of Ca and vitamin D supplementation (Kyle et al, 2007); this emphasizes the need for education about the role of vitamin D in maintaining bone health (Guise, 2006). In conclusion, the recommended daily 400 IU of vitamin D is inadequate for healthy adults and a higher daily supplementation (1000 IU) should be standard maintenance, after correction of the deficit, guided by vitamin D serum level. The current study found no correlation between vitamin D status and MM activity.

Okay, in my opinion, the message is clear: get your vitamin D levels tested immediately and, if need be, discuss vitamin D supplementation with your MM specialist. Don’t put it off!

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