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Vitamin D and prostate cancer

thumbnail Vitamin D test—Vietnam Veteran Cassie Watson is taking part in research at the Charleston VA Medical Center to see if vitamin D supplementation can slow the growth of prostate cancer. (Photo by Amelia Phillips-Hale)

Investigators at the Charleston VA Medical Center and the Medical University of South Carolina have seen encouraging, if somewhat mixed, results so far from research on the effects of vitamin D supplementation on men with low-risk prostate cancer. About 45 patients took part in the trial. All were being treated with "active surveillance"—repeated tests of their prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, and periodic biopsies to check for cancer progression. The men all took daily soft gels containing 4000 IUs of vitamin D. No significant changes were noted in the men's PSA levels, on average, but 55 percent showed improvements in biopsy results after one year on the vitamin D supplements. In comparison, 11 percent showed no change on this measure, and 34 percent showed some worsening. The researchers are now conducting a follow-up study to further test the theory that vitamin D may help slow prostate cancer progression. (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, July 2012)

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