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Vitamin D levels associated with survival in lymphoma patients

Posted Dec 09 2009 12:00am

A new study has found that the amount of vitamin D in patients being treated for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma was strongly associated with cancer progression and overall survival. After rereading that sentence for the hundredth time, I realized how ambiguous it actually sounds…does it imply that high vitamin D levels are good or bad for lymphoma patients? Let me reassure you…it’s the former! 

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to poor outcomes in other types of cancer (breast, colon, neck and head, e.g.), but this happens to be THE first lymphoma-vitamin D study. Let’s first have a look at the December 9th Science Daily article (from which the potentially alarming excerpt was taken):

Here we learn that 50% of the group (374 patients) of large B-cell lymphoma patients evaluated in this study were found to be vitamin D deficient. 50%! Well, it turned out that the vitamin D-deficient patients were more likely to progress and…die…compared to patients with optimal vitamin D levels.

And read this: Recent studies have suggested that vitamin D deficiency may play a role in causing certain cancers as well as impacting the outcome once someone is diagnosed with cancer. I mean, even if you tend to scoff at the health benefits of vitamins and herbal supplements (as I used to do…and I still don’t take vitamins on a regular basis, with ONE big exception–vitamin D!), you cannot possibly ignore the significance of these findings.

Incidentally, this study was conducted by a Mayo Clinic/University of Iowa research team and financed by the National Cancer Institute and the Mayo Hematologic Malignancies Lymphoma Fund. The Mayo Clinic, need I say more? The team presented their results at the ASH annual meeting on December 5th, so I looked for and found the  paper on the ASH website

It’s easy to read and provides a lot of details, so please go have a look. The paper concludes that Vitamin D deficient patients have an inferior event-free and overall survival compared to patients with vitamin D levels within the normal range. Okay, that statement is crystal clear…not ambiguous at all. The researchers recommend that vitamin D testing for lymphoma patients be conducted in a clinical setting. Good idea.

Well, this question popped into my head, of course: what about myeloma patients? Is vitamin D testing the norm for us? Probably not. It certainly is not the norm here in Italy. In fact, the first person who insisted that I have my vitamin D levels checked was my friend Sherlock. If that is the case everywhere, then I think we should put pressure on our MM organizations to check out the possible link between myeloma progression and vitamin D levels…But I have to do some research first. There may already be a myeloma-vit D study out there (doubt it…).  

Okay, let’s see…back to the paper…based on the vitamin D reference range given here, I am (or was, in October) borderline vit D deficient. Ouch! (Okay, okay, no surprise there, I already knew that…) Since I have always hated being in the sun and never used to take vitamins…or anything else, for that matter!…I bet that my levels of vitamin D have always been low. Unfortunately, it never occurred to me that the vitamin D test might be important, so I never had one. Hmmm, come to think of it, I rarely had any blood tests done before 1999. Ah, how things have changed!!!

Well, better late than never. May this be a good lesson for all of us: 1. we should have our vitamin D levels tested, 2. go see a good endocrinologist, and 3. if need be, supplement with vitamin D. Yes, I have definitely become a vitamin D believer…! And let’s not forget that vitamin D may prevent H1N1. Oh, by the way, a TON of information can be found on the Vitamin D Council website: Okay, I have to get off the computer now and go fold the laundry…ciao a tutti! Oh, and thanks, LPC, for sending me the link to the SD article!

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