Living an overall healthy lifestyle is the best way to reduce your colon cancer risk, but new research has found that vitamin D may play a crucial role in preventing the deadly health condition in younger individuals.
To get a better understanding of some of the risk factors associated with colon cancer onset, especially in younger adults, researchers conducted a large-scale study of more than 115,000 female nurses between the ages of 25 and 42 years old. Diet, lifestyle and medical history were analyzed, and participants filled out questionnaires every two years about certain aspects of their health. Food and diet questionnaires were conducted every four years, and individuals were studied over the course of 25 years. Over that time period there were 111 newly diagnosed cases of early-onset colorectal cancer among the participants.
After adjusting for other known risks such as smoking, alcohol and red meat consumption and sedentary lifestyles, researchers found that total vitamin D intake was significantly associated with a reduced risk of early-onset colorectal cancer.
“Our findings suggest that as little as 300 [international units or IU per day] of vitamin D (roughly equal to three glasses of milk) may be associated with a 50% decreased risk of young-onset colorectal cancer,” said lead researcher Dr. Kimmie Ng, director of the Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
Increase Your Vitamin D Intake
Researchers also said that it is important how you get vitamin D in your daily diet. While supplements are a fine alternative, vitamin D’s protective effect against colon cancer onset appears to be greater when it is obtained from dietary sources, particularly dairy products. Similarly, researchers found an association between low vitamin D intake and the precursors to colon cancer, such as adenomas and polyps. Finally, researchers noted that the protective effect of vitamin D did not appear to be substantial after the age of 50, so while it’s important for other bodily processes after that age, it’s imperative that young people ensure their Vitamin D intake is where it needs to be.
So how can you work to increase your vitamin D intake from food sources? As the study mentions, dairy products are often a safe place to turn. Cow’s milk, cheese, eggs and yogurt all tend to be high in vitamin D, but they are far from the only vitamin-rich foods. Fish, like tuna, mackerel and salmon are all foods that are high in vitamin D, and other options are oftentimes fortified with the vitamin. Cereals, orange juice and soy milk can be great alternatives to standard dairy or fish products to get your vitamin D intake for the day.
Supplements are also an option to help you get a healthy amount of vitamin D each day. While the study says they aren’t as beneficial as options that we get from food sources, supplements are much better than depriving your body of this much needed vitamin, so talk to your doctor or a gastrointestinal specialist if you are wondering about which vitamin supplement is right for you.
And if you really want to do all you can to prevent late-stage colon cancer, make sure you are getting your regular colon cancer screenings in the form of a colonoscopy. Dr. Bhatti and the team at Bhatti GI Consultants are here to help you prevent and treat colon cancer anyway we can, so feel free to lean on us as an expert resource. For more information or for help with anything related to colon cancer or gastrointestinal health, reach out to Dr. Bhatti today at (651) 430-3800.