Colon cancer is declining overall in many countries, but incidence is increasing in younger adults. The National Cancer Institute reports that colon cancer rates have doubled among adults under 50 since the 1990s.
A new study published in Gastroenterology suggests increased levels of vitamin D could help prevent colon cancer in adults under 50.
New Research Regarding Vitamin D and Colorectal Cancer
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for building healthy bones, supporting immune health and maintaining muscle and brain cell function. But can vitamin D also impact colon cancer risk?
Scientists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and other institutions, analyzed data from 94,205 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study II. They were particularly interested in finding an association between total vitamin D intake and early-onset colon cancer, diagnosed prior to 50 years of age.
Kimmie Ng is the Director of the Young-Onset Colon Cancer Center at Dana-Farber. “Vitamin D has known activity against colorectal cancer in laboratory studies.” Ng said. “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 colorectal cancer in young individuals” (The Harvard Gazette).
Ng and colleagues found that higher total vitamin D intake had a significant association with reduced risk of young-onset colon cancer. Between 1991 to 2015, Ng and her team documented 111 cases of early-onset colon cancer and 3,317 colorectal polyps. The study showed women who took 300 IU or more of vitamin D per day had a 50 percent lower risk of colon cancer. That is the equivalent of three 8-ounce glasses of milk.
What are the Best Sources of Vitamin D?
Dietary vitamin D, especially dairy products, displayed more favorable results than vitamin D supplements. This finding suggests that vitamin D offers more protective benefits when ingested in food sources. Good sources of vitamin D include:
- Fortified milk, yogurt and cheese
- Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring
- Egg yolks
- Red meat
- Certain fortified breakfast cereals and orange juice
How You Can Lower Your Risk for Colon Cancer
While a vitamin-rich diet and exercise are important for cancer prevention, the best way to lower your risk for colon cancer is a colon cancer screening. The gold standard is colonoscopy because it allows your doctor to examine the entire colon for precancerous growths called polyps and remove any suspicious lesions. Colonoscopy offers not only the ability to diagnose colon cancer, but to treat and prevent it, all in a single exam.
Schedule Your Colonoscopy Before Your Deductible Resets
Have you had a colonoscopy recently? The recommended age for colon cancer screening has been lowered to 45, so it may be time for you to schedule an appointment. The year is almost over, and your deductible will reset in January. If you have a family history of colon cancer, or are experiencing symptoms that may be due to colon cancer, you should consult your physician. Colonoscopy may be recommended regardless of age.
It’s hard to believe that we are approaching the end of the calendar year. Colonoscopy is considered preventive care, so your procedure could be very low-cost or even free. Time is running out, so call your insurance company today to take full advantage of your health benefits.