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Vitamin D Might Help Prevent Early-Onset Colon Cancer

HealthDay News
by Robert Preidt
Updated: Aug 18th 2021

new article illustration

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 18, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Foods rich in vitamin D may help protect younger adults against colon cancer, researchers report.

While colon cancer is decreasing overall, cases among younger adults have been on the rise. The trends dovetail with a decline in vitamin D intake from foods such as fish, mushrooms, eggs and milk.

There is growing evidence of a link between vitamin D and risk of colon cancer death, but little research on whether vitamin D intake is associated with the risk of young-onset (before age 50) colon cancer.

"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 colon cancer in younger people, said study co-senior author Dr. Kimmie Ng, director of the Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

The study found that vitamin D intake of 300 IU per day or more — roughly equivalent to three 8-ounce glasses of milk — was associated with roughly a 50% lower risk of developing young-onset colon cancer.

Higher vitamin D intake were also associated with a lower risk of potentially precancerous colon polyps detected before age 50.

The findings are based on data from more than 94,000 women who were part of a long-term study that began in 1989. They were 25 to 42 years of age when the study began.

The study — recently published online in the journal Gastroenterology — is the first to make the connection between vitamin D levels and risk of young-onset colon cancer, researchers said.

They didn't find a significant link between vitamin D intake and colon cancer risk after age 50, and they said more study is needed to determine if vitamin D actually provides greater protection against young-onset colon cancer than against it later on.

"Our results further support that vitamin D may be important in younger adults for health and possibly colorectal cancer prevention," Ng said.

She said it is critical to understand the risk factors associated with young-onset colon cancer so informed decisions about lifestyle and diet can be made and high-risk individuals can receive earlier screening.

The findings could lead to recommendations for higher vitamin D intake as an inexpensive addition to screening tests to prevent colon cancer in adults under 50, researchers said.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on colon cancer prevention.


SOURCE: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, news release, Aug. 17, 2021