Northwestern study finds link between low vitamin D levels, aggressive prostate cancer

Madeline Fox, Campus editor

A study from researchers at Northwestern Medicine found a significant link between aggressive cases of prostate cancer and low levels of vitamin D.

Prostate cancer — one of the most common types of cancer among men, according to the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit medical research and practice group — occurs in the prostate, a small gland that produces seminal fluid for nourishing and transporting sperm. Prostate cancer is considered aggressive when it has migrated outside the prostate and has a high Gleason score, indicating the cancer tissue is very different from normal prostate tissue and is more likely to spread.

The study, led by Feinberg School of Medicine professor Dr. Adam Murphy, may help men and their physicians with monitoring the cancer instead of removing the prostate, a practice known as active surveillance.

Murphy said in a news release all men should check their vitamin D levels, as those levels are an indicator of bone health and aggressiveness of other diseases in addition to their relevance to prostate cancer treatment.

“All men should be replenishing their vitamin D to normal levels,” Murphy said in the release. “It’s smart preventive health care.”

Based on previous research conducted by Murphy and his colleagues, the relationship between vitamin D levels and prostate cancer may also explain racial disparities in the occurrence of prostate cancer. The investigators’ previous research showed black men living in locations with less sunlight are more likely to be vitamin D deficient than white men.

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