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The Role of Vitamin D in Prostate Cancer

Vitamin D

Vitamin D

A recent study into prostate cancer has revealed some potentially very good news for its patients. Researchers from the University of Colorado Center conducted a study that has put forward evidence of a connection between the disease and Vitamin D levels in the body.  Previously, it was already being known that Vitamin D has inhibitory effects on cancer cells, but its exact mechanism remained uncertain. Thus, it could not be proven as a cancer-fighting substance. Doctor James R. Lambert discovered that the keys linking the two were in inflammation and the gene GDF-15. His team learned that samples of cancerous tissue that exhibited inflammation also showed lower than average levels of GDF-15. These results suggested that GDF-15, which is in turn expressed through the action of Vitamin D, could successfully suppress inflammation in cancerous prostate tissue.

Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer strikes the prostate gland in male reproductive systems. It is the most common form of cancer found in males around the world and causes death in an estimated third of all its patients. Men that are diagnosed with prostate cancer are most commonly over 50 years old. The usual symptoms of prostate cancer are urinary and include recurrent urination, difficulty while urinating, painful urination, and blood appearing in the urine. Men may also have difficulties with sexual performance and be unable to achieve an erection or proper ejaculation. Inflammation is believed to be one of the driving symptoms of prostate cancer. It is thought to initiate cancerous cell formation and worsen the condition of prostate cancer.

Vitamin D

Many scientific studies have looked into the general effects of Vitamin D in cancer. The substance, also referred to by the name sunshine vitamin, was believed to have a mitigating effect on cancer cells due to its various health benefits. A definite link was discovered between Vitamin D and prostate cancer, but it was yet unknown what this exact relationship could be. Some scientists theorized that it could play a role in carcinogenesis, while others thought it might help determine the aggressive extent of cancer. Research has shown that the majority of men with positive prostate cancer diagnoses also suffers from low levels of Vitamin D. Further studies have shown that Vitamin D retards the development of prostate cells, suggesting that a deficiency may cause uncontrollable growth and eventually lead to cancer.

GDF-15

GDF-15 was the connection uncovered between Vitamin D and prostate cancer. Growth differentiation factor 15 belongs to the transforming growth factor beta super family of proteins that help regulate cell structure. GDF-15 specifically controls inflammation and commonly works along areas that experience or are prone to tissue damage, as well as pathways that undergo regular cell death. GDF-15 is up-regulated during periods of serious internal injury, such as those that may occur in various organs. During the Colorado study, Lambert and his team discovered that this up-regulation is controlled by Vitamin D. Information was finally revealed on the potential mechanism Vitamin D has on cancer inhibition.

Implications

This study has produced some very promising results for prostate cancer patients. The research team has also discovered that Vitamin D, through its action on GDF-15, can inhibit NFkB, which has the effect of increasing inflammatory effects and promoting tumor growth. Thus, an even stronger case has been made for Vitamin D as a possible anti-prostate cancer agent. There is much research still to be done on the topic, but scientists now have a potential treatment that may help in mitigating the effects of prostate cancer in the lives of many men around the world.