A new study shows that getting a little sun each day can go a long way towards preventing the onset of colorectal cancer, one of the world’s deadliest cancers.
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The study, which was carried out by Dr. Shuji Ogino of the Harvard School of Public Health, was based on the examination of data associated with 170,000 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.
“Laboratory research suggests that vitamin D boosts immune system function by activating T cells that recognize and attack cancer cells,” Ogino said. “In this study, we wanted to determine if these two phenomena are related: Does vitamin D’s role in the immune system account for the lower rates of colorectal cancer in people with high circulating levels of the vitamin?”
Researchers closely examined 318 people dealing with colorectal cancer and 624 cancer-free individuals. The study showed that those people who had high amounts of vitamin D in their blood also had a lower-than-average risk of developing colon cancer. “Laboratory research suggests that vitamin D boosts immune system function by activating T cells that recognize and attack cancer cells,” Ogino said.
Ogino adds that this is “the first study to show evidence of the effect of vitamin D on anti-cancer immune function in actual patients.” Looking down the road, Ogino believes researchers “may be able to predict how increasing an individual’s vitamin D intake and immune function can reduce his or her risk of colorectal cancer.”
Widely known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is produced by the body in response to sun exposure. Previous studies have shown that it can also help improve bone health and protect against depression and the common cold.