- In an analysis, researchers have come to the conclusion that 30,000 deaths from cancer could be prevented each year through the sufficient administration of vitamin D alone.
- That’s good news for cancer patients. Because vitamin D is also significantly less expensive than many cancer drugs, it could also relieve the financial burden on the healthcare system.
- The researchers write that the healthcare system could save up to €254 million annually.
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It is said to reduce the risk of diabetes, strengthen the immune system, and even protect against depression: Vitamin D is considered a real all-rounder. According to the Robert Koch Institute, the main function of the so-called sun vitamin is its involvement in our bone metabolism. It promotes the incorporation of calcium and phosphate into our bones, making them strong.
For several years, scientists have also been investigating the influence of vitamin D on cancer. After analyzing three large clinical studies, Heidelberg researchers at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) have now come to the encouraging conclusion that regular administration of vitamin D in Germany could possibly prevent up to 30,000 deaths from cancer each year – across all types of the disease.
This is good news for all cancer patients. After all, vitamin D is well tolerated and extremely easy to use. Another positive aspect: this would significantly relieve the financial burden on the healthcare system. After all, cancer mortality has fallen in many countries around the world in the past year. “But in view of the often considerable costs of many new cancer drugs, this success has often come at a high price,” says Hermann Brenner, epidemiologist at DKFZ, in a press release. Vitamin D in the usual daily doses, on the other hand, is comparatively inexpensive.
Vitamin D deficiency is particularly widespread among older people
The researchers write that the health care system could save up to 254 million euros by administering additional vitamin D to the entire German population over the age of 50. For their calculations, Brenner and his colleagues compared the costs incurred by supplementation with the potential savings for cancer therapies.
Vitamin D deficiency is particularly widespread among the elderly population and especially among cancer patients, the Heidelberg researchers write. Given the potentially significant positive effects on cancer mortality, they therefore call for reducing the widespread undersupply of the sunshine vitamin in Germany.
They point to other countries where food has been fortified with vitamin D for many years – Finland, for example. And there, the death rate from cancer is 20 percent lower than in Germany. “Finally, we consider vitamin D supplementation so safe that we even recommend it for newborn babies to develop healthy bones,” says epidemiologist Brenner.
Fill up on vitamin D through sunlight
According to the German Nutrition Society, the reference value for vitamin D intake is 20 micrograms per day. Unlike other vitamins, we absorb it predominantly through the sun and only in moderation through diet. If we regularly spend time outside in the sunshine, our skin contributes 80 to 90 percent of our vitamin D supply under the conditions that are common in this country.
The DKFZ Cancer Information Service therefore advises spending time outdoors in the sunshine. Two to three times a week for about twelve minutes is enough. Face, hands, and parts of arms and legs should be uncovered and without sunscreen for this period of time. This can also help bridge the winter months when the sun’s position makes it difficult to get vitamin D.
Vitamin D and Covid-19
The German Nutrition Society (DGE) also recently discussed the effects of too low a vitamin D level – but not in connection with cancer, but with Covid-19. “If you have built up sufficient stores in the summer, then the values remain good – but that is apparently not the case for many,” said DGE President Jakob Linseisen.
A sufficient supply is just particularly important: Because several studies indicate in the meantime that possibly between a low Vitamin D mirror and a Corona infection and/or a heavy course a connection exists. In the current situation, Linseisen therefore sees advantages in boosting the vitamin D levels of high-risk patients with supplements. However, overdosing should be avoided in any case. Too much of the vitamin can also be harmful. For possible supplementation, the DGE president recommends small daily doses of 20 micrograms.
The German Society for Endocrinology has also commented on this topic. Precautionary vitamin D administration solely to prevent Covid-19 is not yet appropriate, the society writes in a recent statement. The scientific evidence is not yet sufficient for this, it says.