Taking vitamin D could slow or even reverse low-grade prostate tumours without the need for surgery or radiation.
The results of the research will be presented to the 249th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society, in Denver this week.
If a tumour is present in a prostate biopsy, a pathologist grades its aggressiveness on a scale known as the Gleason Grading System.
Those with Gleason scores of 7 and above are considered aggressive and likely to spread, requiring surgical removal of the prostate gland or radiation therapy.
Tumours with Gleason scores of 6 and below are less aggressive and in some cases may cause no symptoms or health problems.
Many urologists do not treat the disease in cases of low-grade prostate cancer but instead do what’s called active surveillance.
Bruce Hollis, at the Medical University of South Carolina, said: “The cure — meaning surgery or radiation — is probably worse than the disease, so they wait a year and then do another biopsy to see where the patient stands.”
Preliminary results from the study indicate that those using vitamin D showed improvements in their prostate tumours.
“We don’t know yet whether vitamin D treats or prevents prostate cancer,” says Hollis. “At the minimum, what it may do is keep lower-grade prostate cancers from going ballistic.”
The dosage of vitamin D administered in the study represent 20% to 40% of what the human body can make from daily sun exposure.
“We’re treating these guys with normal body levels of vitamin D,” he says. “We haven’t even moved into the pharmacological levels yet.”
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