Low Vitamin D Levels Could Contribute to Leukemia

Julie Shenkman
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Medical researchers already know that vitamin D interacts with cancer cells related to acute myeloid leukemia. However, a study published in January 2016 suggests that low levels of this nutrient may lead to a greater risk of leukemia. Researchers wanted to know if low exposure to sunlight in various parts of the world leads to increased rates of leukemia in certain countries.

A team from the University of California-San Diego researched the incidences of leukemia in 172 countries. After removing several factors, such as age, gender, life expectancy and altitude, scientists noted that people who live farther away from the equator have a greater risk of leukemia compared to people who live closer to the equator. Residents of the United States, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and Australia are twice as likely to get this kind of cancer as opposed to people who live in Nigeria, Samoa, Bolivia and Madagascar.

Although researchers cannot tell if a lack of ultraviolet radiation exposure causes leukemia, scientists believe many of the problems associated with leukemia come from a lack of vitamin D due to less sunlight. Doctors note that a form of the vitamin, called 25(OH)D, interacts with acute myeloid leukemia cells. More 25(OH)D in a person's body indicates a lesser chance for getting leukemia. Scientists are not sure why this relationship exists.

High points of the study include the thousands of leukemia cases from hundreds of countries around the world. This study also backs previous research that vitamin D levels have a correlation with leukemia. Researchers believe doctors should investigate this relationship further to try to prevent leukemia in patients in the future.

Vitamin D may do more than just help prevent cancer. This nutrient, as made by the body after exposure to sunlight, may help make the heart healthier. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh note the bodies of mice make nitric oxide after they receive a healthy amount of sunlight on the skin. Mice with extra sun exposure suffered from fewer health complications, such as obesity, weight gain and insulin resistance.

Vitamin D supplementation did not have the same effect on the mice as exposure to sunlight. Researchers showed this by giving mice supplements versus rubbing nitric oxide cream on the skin of the animals. Those with the supplement did not experience reduce health problems compared to those with the cream. This proves that sunlight plays an important role in the production of this nutrient.

Health care advocates may suggest patients get out and get more sun, but not so much as to increase the risk of skin cancer later in life. Patients should talk to their doctors about appropriate levels of sunlight to produce the right amount of vitamin D in the body. Increased levels of this vitamin may help many problems, but too much of it could lead to increased falls for seniors.

Photo courtesy of Maggie Smith at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



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  • Ferrer e.
    Ferrer e.

    Good article

  • Marilyn B.
    Marilyn B.

    Love to take Vit D,and the sunshine vit.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Dorrene thank you for your comment. Most of us don't realize how much damage a lack of Vit D can cause until we have issues and/or have a bone density test done. As I mentioned previously, especially in the wintertime - we need more Vit D - whether from a pill or from our food and sunshine. Personally, I take 1000 units a day.

  • Dorrene W.
    Dorrene W.

    The lower your vitamin D levels are you are prone to osteoporosis. I just had a bone density test done and the osteoporosis and osteopenia are usually brought on by low vit. D levels as well as a family history of this awful bone issue as well. Vitamin D is also a nutirnt that is vital for our heart health too.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Wendy thanks for your comment. It's that time of the year when most of us have a lower than normal Vit D level. 50,000 units of Vitamin D is a lot - that's true. I had to do the same thing - 10,000 units of VitD for 6 weeks and then back to my regular 1000 units per day. When you have a nice sunny day, get outside and get some natural Vit D, too. That will help with your levels. I know it's winter time but, when the sun shines, it's good for you. My doctor recommended 15 minutes of sun per day - whenever we have a sunny day. Try it. Hope it works for you.

  • Wendy S.
    Wendy S.

    I. Have my vitamin D levels checked my lowest was 5. So I had to take a very level of vitamin D it was 500000 units , it made me sick. Just had it checked again it's 22 now still kinda low. Should be 30-60.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Gary P thanks for your comment. So true. Just simple common sense can keep us healthy. Sadly, the newest generation doesn't seem to spend much time outside. They spend it on computer games hunched over a keyboard. Or watching television. That's why vitamin D has become so important in today's society. As to the amount, doctors typically recommend 1000 iu of Vitamin D3 for a healthy adult.

  • Gary P.
    Gary P.

    talk to your doctor about the amount of vit D to get. But this article does not tell your doctor or anyone else the answer to that question. the bottom line is get outdoor excersize regularly. That still is the best advise to give for overall health and well being.

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