Vitamin D, one of the 13 essential dietary vitamins, facilitates the proper absorption of calcium, which sustains bone mass. Mixed evidence in clinical studies links deficient levels of vitamin D to immune system weakness and increased risk of diseases, including prostate cancer. Diagnosing prostate cancer involves testing blood levels for prostate-specific antigen, or PSA. However, as of 2011, deficient levels of vitamin D do not necessarily indicate you will have a high PSA level reading, which is a marker for the presence of cancer.
The average daily recommendation of vitamin D for adults is 600 to 800 international units. You can naturally synthesize vitamin D from 15 minutes of direct sun exposure to your skin. However, the risk of skin cancer prevents many people from utilizing this means for obtaining natural vitamin D. Foods with vitamin D are limited, but do include fatty fish like salmon or tuna, fortified dairy products and egg yolks. Vitamin D deficiency can occur if you lack consistent intake, resulting in bone mineralization or softening, and muscle weakness or pain.
In men, the cells in the prostate gland naturally produce the PSA protein. Normally, a low level of PSA is in the bloodstream, but factors like aging or prostate enlargement can cause the PSA levels to rise. The results of PSA testing can indicate the presence of tumors or disease but the PSA reading alone does not conclude that cancer exists. The relationship of vitamin D to PSA levels is not fully understood. However, a small study of men taking vitamin D supplements, post-radiation treatment, showed favorable results in PSA levels remaining low for 15 months after beginning supplementation, according to the American Cancer Society.
Vitamin D and Prostate Cells
A strong immune system reduces your risk of abnormal cell growth. Adequate vitamin D serum levels promote immune health by regulating cell differentiation and apoptosis, notes Johns Hopkins Medicine. Differentiation refers to the process of new cell development and apoptosis is the death of cells, which controls abnormal cell division. Additionally, daily supplementation of vitamin D inhibits the growth of normal prostatic epithelial cells and cancerous prostate cells but at the risk of vitamin D toxicity, according to a 2004 review published in the “Reviews in Urology.”
In 2011, researchers at the University of Bristol conducted a large-scale, worldwide review of past and present studies linking vitamin D to prostate cancer. In conclusion of this review, the researchers found that although the prior evidence was mixed, substantial evidence confirms that vitamin D deficiency does not cause prostate cancer. In making health decisions that affect your prostate or cancer risk, consult your physician before including supplements or any form of alternative remedy into your regimen.
- American Cancer Society: Vitamin D
- Reviews in Urology: Vitamin D for the Management of Prostate Cancer
- National Cancer Institute: Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin D
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: Vitamin D and Prostate Cancer
- University of Bristol: No Link Between Vitamin D Levels and Prostate Cancer