High vitamin D level multiplies survival chances of cancer patients

The more vitamin D3 there is in cancer patients’ blood, the greater their chance of surviving the disease. Norwegian researchers discovered this when they analysed data on 658 cancer patients. A high level of vitamin D triples the survival chances of cancer patients.

Many, but not all, studies show that high levels of vitamin D protect against cancer. One theory is that vitamin D keeps cancer cells together in epithelial tissues, so reducing the chance that cancer cells break out of the epithelial tissues and travel around the body. Another theory is that a high level of vitamin D activates the
immune system and thus increases the chance that immune cells destroy cancer cells before they become dangerous.

The Norwegian study, which researchers at the Institute of Population-based Cancer Research published in 2012 in Cancer Causes & Control, looked at people with breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer and lymphoma. All patients had blood samples taken within 90 days of their diagnosis.

The researchers measured the concentration of vitamin D3 in the blood, and on the basis of this divided the patients into four equal groups. These groups are called quartiles. The table below shows that the quartile with the highest vitamin D level had a three times greater chance of survival than the quartile with the lowest vitamin D level.


The same data is reproduced below, but split up into the different types of cancer. For all types of cancer vitamin D3 improves the patient’s prospects.




The figure above shows the survival curves for patients with breast cancer and colon cancer. Click on the graph to see the curves for lung cancer and lymphoma.

Of the colon cancer patients, 35 percent of the patients in the lowest quartile were still alive after 3300 days but 65 percent of the patients in the highest quartile were still alive after 3300 days.

“These findings add to a growing body of literature, indicating that serum levels of vitamin D2 are positively associated with cancer survival”, the Norwegians conclude. “Intervention studies of vitamin D administration among cancer patients will be required to determine whether these observations are causal.”

Serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D and survival in Norwegian patients with cancer of breast, colon, lung, and lymphoma: a population-based study.

Tretli S, Schwartz GG, Torjesen PA, Robsahm TE.


The Cancer Registry of Norway, Institute of Population-based Cancer Research, Majorstuen, 0304 Oslo, Norway. steinar.tretli@kreftregisteret.no



We investigated the association between serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OHD) and risk of death in Norwegian cancer patients.


The study population was 658 patients with cancers of the breast (n = 251), colon (n = 52), lung (n = 210), and lymphoma (n = 145), obtained from JANUS, a population-based serum bank in Norway. Serum samples were collected within 90 days of cancer diagnosis and were analyzed for 25-OHD. Patients were diagnosed during 1984-2004 and were followed for death throughout 2008. We used Cox regression models to assess the relationship between serum 25-OHD and risk of death.

Three hundred and ninety-nine patients died during follow-up, of whom 343 (86%) died from cancer. Adjusted for sex, age at diagnosis, and season of blood sampling, patients with 25-OHD levels below 46 nmol/L at diagnosis experienced shorter survival. Compared to patients in the lowest quartile of serum 25-OHD, the risk of cancer death among patients in the highest quartile was significantly reduced (HR 0.36 95% CI 0.27, 0.51). The estimated change in risk of cancer death was most pronounced between the first and the second quartile. The associations between 25-OHD levels and survival were observed for all four cancers.


Higher circulating serum levels of 25-OHD were positively associated with the survival for cancers of the breast, colon, lung, and lymphoma.

PMID: 22193397 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE] PMCID: PMC3261400

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22193397