The Gut journal published today a new research study from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The scientists showed how the vitamin D is able to protect some patients that suffer from colorectal cancer by restoring the vigilance of the immune system and making the patient’s body fight tumor cells.
The research states for the first time that a connection between the immune response to cancer and vitamin D has been revealed in a vast human population. The results of the study provide new findings to a large body of research about vitamin’s D benefits. The vitamin D is also known as the “sunshine vitamin.” This term is used because the body produces it as a response to sunlight exposure. Over the past years, more and more scientific proofs stated that it plays a key role in cancer prevention.
Shuji Ogino, MD, PhD, MS of Dana-Farber, Harvard School of Public Health, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital explained that “people with high levels of vitamin D in their bloodstream have a lower overall risk of developing colorectal cancer.” He added that laboratory research indicates the vitamin D improves the function of the immune system. This happens thanks to the fact that the vitamin activates T cells. These cells recognize and assault cancer cells. The question raised by the scientists was if can be established any link between people with increased circulating levels of the vitamin D ( people with significantly lower rates of colorectal cancer) and the vitamin’s role in the immune system.
Ogino and his team of researchers assumed that, if the two are linked, then people with increased levels of vitamin D would have a smaller risk to develop colorectal tumors. And if these individuals develop the disease, it would be more resistant to the response of the immune system.
To find the answer to this question they gathered data from 170,000 volunteers. The volunteers joined in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the Nurses’ Health Study. These are two research projects on health-tracking for a long period of time. They studied the blood samples of 942 participants and found that patients with high amounts of vitamin D indeed had a risk below average for developing colorectal tumors.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Friends of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Entertainment Industry Foundation, the Bennett Family Fund, and the Paula and Russell Agrusa Fund for Colorectal Cancer Research.
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