In order for your body to function at its best, you need a healthy balance of vitamins and minerals, all of which perform a specific function in your daily health. Some of these vitamins and minerals come from the food you eat, some from supplements, and some from the sun. Vitamin D, which your body can produce when you spend time in the sun, has long proven to be beneficial to your health in many ways. A new study is showing that in addition to the long-touted benefits of vitamin D, researchers are now connecting the levels of the vitamin in your body to your risk of developing colorectal cancer.
What Is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a unique nutrient. Unlike many other nutrients, your body can produce Vitamin D on its own with proper exposure to sunlight. It contributes to healthy and strong bones, a strengthened immune system, proper cardiovascular and respiratory health, brain development, and muscle function.
How Is Vitamin D Linked To Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women in the US. It’s also the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths, with a projected 50,630 deaths in 2018. Although it is common, treatment has become more effective in recent years. Improved screening recommendations and availability have also contributed to the declining number of colorectal cancer-related deaths.
New research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute indicates that the levels of vitamin D in your body are tied to your personal risk of colorectal cancer. The study included 5,700 colorectal cancer patients, as well as 7,100 control participants. Their research showed a correlation in the amount of vitamin D with instances of colorectal cancer. Participants with vitamin D levels that were below the recommended amount had a 31 percent increased risk of the disease after a period of 5.5 years. In contrast, participants who had the proper vitamin D levels saw a 22 percent reduction in risk. When comparing women and men, the link was stronger amongst the female participants. Although this link has been observed, it’s important to know that vitamin D isn’t being advised for prevention of colorectal cancer, but it should still be considered important in your overall health and wellness.
How Can I Reduce My Personal Risk Of Colorectal Cancer?
There are many risk factors for developing colorectal cancer, including your physical health. You can lower your risk by maintaining a healthy body weight along with an appropriate level of physical activity. Your diet should be high in fruits, veggies, and whole grains, which should both regulate your digestion and help you maintain a healthy weight. Smoking and drinking can also contribute to a higher risk of cancer. One risk factor you can’t control is your age. Colorectal cancer risks increase when you reach your 50s, with the average time of diagnosis being late 60s for men and early 70s for women. The screening guidelines for colorectal cancer were changed recently. The recommended age when you should get your first screening colonoscopy has been lowered from age 50 to 45.
If you are approaching 45 and you haven’t scheduled your first colonoscopy, please make an appointment with Dr. Sameer Islam as soon as possible to have this life-saving exam. We do recommend discussing your benefits with your insurance company prior to visiting us as the new screening guidelines may be in transition with insurance coverage.
In the meantime, spend some time outdoors. A little extra time outside is good for more than simply raising your vitamin D levels.