Vitamin D may help lower colorectal cancer risk in people under 50


  • A recent study reveals that vitamin D might be an easy way to help prevent colorectal cancer among young adults.
  • Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, according to the CDC.
  • Data from the National Cancer Institute shows the rate of colon cancer has nearly doubled among people under 50 years old since the 1990s.

Adding vitamin D to the diet may be the least expensive way of lowering the risk for colorectal cancer in younger adults, a new study reveals. A team of researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard have found that the amount of vitamin D consumed through food is associated with lowering cancer risk in people under 50.

Colorectal cancer rates are going up among younger patients. While scientists can’t fully determine the cause of the surge, they note that the intake of vitamin D from foods such as fish, mushrooms, eggs, and milk has decreased over the last few decades.

The researchers reviewed more than 94,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II and discovered that participants consuming more vitamin D from food had lower risks of young-onset colorectal cancer and fewer cases of colorectal polyps.

“Vitamin D has known activity against colorectal cancer in laboratory studies. Because vitamin D deficiency has been steadily increasing over the past few years, we wondered whether this could be contributing to the rising rates of colorectal cancer in young individuals,” says Kimmie Ng, director of the Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber, in a media release. “We found that total vitamin D intake of 300 IU per day or more – roughly equivalent to three 8-oz. glasses of milk – was associated with an approximately 50% lower risk of developing young-onset colorectal cancer.”

The study’s participants were all nurses between 25 and 42 years old in 1989. Their health, diet, and lifestyle habits were observed from 1991 until 2015. Doctors diagnosed 111 cases of young-onset colorectal cancer and detected 3,317 colorectal polyps during the time period.

The research team discovered that women consuming more foods rich in vitamin D significantly lowered their risk of both occurrences. However, taking vitamin D supplements did not provide the same beneficial effect as getting it from eggs, milk and fish.

The researchers also noted that the same link did not show in people over the age of 50. The team has not determined why older adults receive less cancer benefits from their diets. Further studies involving a larger group of participants will be needed to see if vitamin D only protects against early-onset colorectal cancer.

Common symptoms of colorectal cancer include blood in stool, constant stomach pain, and unexplained weight loss. It is the second-leading cancer killer in the United States, according to the CDC. Early detection helps to improve a patient’s chances of survival.

Source: Study Finds

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