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Higher levels of vitamin D might protect smokers from cancer (Photos)

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A study published yesterday in the journal Clinical Chemistry, suggests boosting vitamin D levels could improve health for people who smoke. Researchers say low vitamin D boosts a person’s chance of developing a variety of tobacco related cancers.

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The finding, published in the journal of AACC, is the first to show higher tobacco related cancer rates associated with low vitamin D.

Smokers are at high risk for lung, bladder, cervical, head, neck, esophageal, stomach, kidney and liver cancer, in addition to myeloid leukemia.

Vitamin D might neutralize tobacco carcinogens

Researchers for the study say it might be that vitamin D has the ability to neutralize the cancer causing effects of chemicals in tobacco smoke. Data also suggests tobacco might influence metabolism and function of the so-called sunshine vitamin.

“Our analyses show that the association between lower concentrations of plasma vitamin D and higher risk of cancer may be driven by tobacco-related cancer as a group, which has not been shown before,” stated author Børge G. Nordestgaard, MD, DMSc, in the paper.

For the study, Shoaib Afzal and colleagues followed 10,000 Danes from the general population for up to 28 years who were part of the Danish Cancer Registry; collecting blood samples in 1981-1983 to measure vitamin D levels.

Among the participants, 1081 developed tobacco related cancer.

The finding showed smokers who developed cancer had lower levels of vitamin D of 14.8 ng/mL, versus the higher 16.4 ng/mL, which was the average of all participants.

Vitamin D can be obtained by taking supplements, from sunshine and foods that include salmon, tuna, flounder, mushrooms, eggs, fortified cereals and milk, orange juice, beef liver, pork and ricotta cheese. Speak with your doctor if you think your diet, lifestyle, tobacco use or underlying health conditions could be causing low levels of the vitamin.

The authors suggest more studies to find out if vitamin D could protect the health of smokers. The investigation only found benefits from higher vitamin D levels for tobacco related cancers, the authors note.


Clinical Chemistry

doi: 10.1373/clinchem.2012.201939

March 15, 2013