Cancer: Could daily vitamin D help reduce the risk of death?


A person holds two vitamin D tablets in their left hand and a glass of water in their right hand, preparing to swallow itShare on Pinterest
Vitamin D intake has been linked to lower cancer mortality. AsiaVision/Getty Images
  • Millions of people die every year from different types of cancer.
  • Researchers from the German Cancer Research Center say taking vitamin D daily could help reduce the risk of dying from cancer by 12%.
  • The scientists found that daily vitamin D intake was especially helpful for people aged 70 and older and for those who started taking supplements before receiving a cancer diagnosis.

About 10 million people die of cancer worldwide every year. Researchers are constantly looking for new ways to help extend the life expectation of people with cancer.


Now, researchers at the German Cancer Research Center have uncovered new evidence that taking vitamin D daily could help reduce the risk of dying from cancer by 12%.

Additionally, the researchers found that people aged 70 and older benefited more from their daily vitamin D intake than younger people. The benefits were even greater in people who started taking vitamin D daily as a preventative before receiving a cancer diagnosis.

This study was recently published in the journal Aging Research Reviews.

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin for a person’s overall health. Help with:


A person normally gets vitamin D by eating foods rich in vitamin D, a supplementor from exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun.

Foods naturally rich in vitamin D include:


There are two main types of vitamin D:

  • Vitamin D2 is found primarily in plant-based foods and supplements
  • Vitamin D3 is mainly obtained through exposure to the sun and the consumption of certain foods related to meat

Currently, the average recommended daily dose of vitamin D for most people is between 400 and 800 IU (10 to 20 micrograms). The range primarily refers to age, with 400 IU recommended for young children and 800 IU for adults aged 71 and older.

Signs of a vitamin D deficiency include:

This isn’t the first study to look for a link between vitamin D and cancer. Researchers have examined vitamin D is used to reduce the risk of cancer and as a treatment.

Scientists have also studied vitamin D as a preventative measure for specific cancers, such as breast cancer AND liver cancer. However, the results have been mixed. For example, a recent review reported that vitamin D supplementation in adults with healthy vitamin D levels did not prevent cancer or provide other demonstrable health benefits.

According to Dr. Ben Schttker, an epidemiologist and research group leader in the Division of Clinical Epidemiology and Aging Research at the German Cancer Research Center and senior author of this study, he and his team set out to study the impact of vitamin D on mortality for cancer as previous studies have provided evidence that cancer mortality is one of the health outcomes likely to exhibit a response to vitamin D supplementation.

Additionally, Dr. Schttker and his team focused specifically on vitamin D3 for this study.

A previous systematic review and the meta-analysis showed no effect for vitamin D2 on cancer mortality, but an effect of vitamin D3 on cancer mortality, he told Medical News Today. One can only speculate about the reasons.

For this study, the researchers analyzed data and results from 14 studies involving nearly 105,000 participants. The scientists only included studies in which participants were randomly assigned to receive vitamin D3 or a placebo.

After looking at all the data, the research team didn’t find any statistically significant results until they considered the dosage each study participant received.

When study participants were intermittently given very high doses of vitamin D3, the researchers found no effect on cancer mortality. However, when participants took vitamin D3 daily, the research team found it reduced the cancer death rate by 12%.

Additionally, Dr. Schttker and his team found that people aged 70 and older who took vitamin D3 daily benefited the most from the therapy.

The older you get, the higher the risk of cancer, explained Dr. Schttker.

Therefore, preventive actions against cancer mortality become more effective the older the patients are. Since cancer risk already starts to increase from age 50 onwards, I personally would already screen patients for potential vitamin D supplementation from age 50 onwards and not just from age 70 onwards, he said MNT extension.

Furthermore, the beneficial effect was more evident when vitamin D3 was taken preventively before a study participant received a cancer diagnosis.

This implies that virtually everyone age 50 and older, including people who have never had cancer, could benefit from vitamin D supplementation if vitamin D is insufficient.
Dr. Ben Schttker

This implies that virtually everyone age 50 and older, including people who have never had cancer, could benefit from vitamin D supplementation if vitamin D is insufficient.

Doctors cannot know who might develop cancer later. However, in Germany, the risk [of developing] once in a lifetime cancer is very high 43% for women and 51% for men and therefore the chance of curing someone who could profit from it in the future is quite high. I would imagine that the lifetime risk of developing cancer is comparable in most other industrialized countries, added Dr. Schttker.

There were limitations in the included studies that made it difficult to assess the true impact of vitamin D supplementation on cancer mortality.

For example, most of the included studies did not test vitamin D levels at the start of the studies, so it’s not clear how many of the participants were vitamin D deficient. Also, while all participants were assigned either vitamin D3 or the placebo, most studies allowed participants in the placebo group to self-medicate with vitamin D supplements.

Medical News Today he also spoke with Dr. Wael Harb, a hematologist and medical oncologist at MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, about this research.

He explained that while there have been many studies over the years investigating the role of vitamin D in reducing cancer, the data has been conflicting with some studies showing positive results and others showing no benefit.

We always try to find a lifestyle intervention or supplement that will reduce the cancer because once cancer is diagnosed, especially if diagnosed late, the outcome is not always favorable. So, the best way to deal with cancer is to prevent it in the first place, he explained.

Dr. Harb said primary care physicians should not only talk to people about their vitamin D levels, but also about other lifestyle changes they can make to reduce their chances of cancer.

We know there are many things that can be done to reduce cancer avoiding tobaccobeing physically activebeing in a optimal weighteat a healthy dietlimiting alcohol intakeavoiding sun exposureand following the guidelines for appropriate cancer screening.
Dr. Wael Harb

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