According to cancer prevention specialists, taking vitamin D3 daily appears to lower the risk of cancer by up to as much 50 percent.
The specialists at the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Medical Center, say that 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D3 daily protects against colon, breast, and ovarian cancer.
The researchers are calling for prompt public health action to increase the intake of vitamin D3 as an inexpensive tool for prevention of diseases that claim millions of lives each year.
Previous studies by the same group, have shown the link between vitamin D deficiency and higher rates of colon cancer, and this new study also associates the same risks to breast and ovarian cancers.
Co-author Cedric F. Garland, a professor with UCSD's Moores Cancer Center and the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the UCSD School of Medicine, says a good example is breast cancer which will strike one in eight American women in their lifetime.
Though early detection using mammography reduces the mortality rates by about 20 percent, Garland says the use of vitamin D might prevent this cancer in the first place.
In conclusion the authors say that the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency, combined with the discovery of increased risks of certain types of cancer in those who are deficient, suggests that the deficiency may account for several thousand premature deaths from colon, breast, ovarian and other cancers annually.
Of interest too is that the study discovered that those living in the northeastern United States, and individuals with higher skin pigmentation were at an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency.
This is because sunshine is needed for the human body to make vitamin D, and the increased skin pigmentation of African-Americans reduces their ability to synthesize vitamin D.
According to Garland African-American women who develop breast cancer are more likely to die from the disease than white women of the same age, and their survival rates are also worse for colon, prostate and ovarian cancers.
The authors link this with the decreased ability of blacks to make Vitamin D.
Their findings are based on a comprehensive review of published scientific papers on the relationship of the oral intake of vitamin D with risk of certain types of cancers between January 1966 and December 2004.
In the research, sixty-three observational studies of vitamin D status in relation to cancer risk, including 30 of colon cancer, 13 of breast cancer, 26 of prostate cancer and seven of ovarian cancer, were assessed.
This systematic review, gives a clearer picture than any single study and is recognized by scientists as an important tool for establishing a consensus of findings.
The authors recommend a daily intake of 1,000 IU of vitamin D, which they estimate would cost about five cents per day, which is the easiest and most reliable way of getting the appropriate amount.
The research is published on-line December 27, 2005 and printed in the February 2006 issue of The American Journal of Public Health.