Reducing your risk of cancer by any amount is advantageous. Experts spend time and money studying potential ways to mitigate this risk—and some studies show promise, like this 2022 study out of the University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University Hospital. The study found that fewer cases of melanoma were observed among people who regularly take vitamin D supplements. We talked to some experts about their take on whether the study holds weight.
“Regular use of vitamin D associates with fewer melanoma cases, when compared to non-use,” concludes the study. However, the authors know this could be a coincidence or a result of other actions. They note that “the causality between them is obscure.” The study observed almost 500 participants at elevated risk for skin cancer. They took vitamin D supplements regularly and found there was a reduced incidence of melanoma.
Expert insight on the findings
Experts say the findings are logical, but there’s more to it. “Vitamin D plays a vital role in our cellular functions, including the immune system. The immune system is a very important part of the way we eliminate abnormal cells before they become a tumor,” explains Campbell, CA dermatologist Amelia K. Hausauer, MD. “Vitamin D is also protective against oxidative stress and DNA damage. These are both factors associated with cancer risk.” Due to this, Dr. Hausauer says it’s plausible that vitamin D supplements could have protective effects on the skin. However, she says the results of the study should be considered cautiously.
“The study is cross-sectional. It captures a snapshot in time. It doesn’t give us information about whether vitamin D is, in fact, the cause of decreased melanoma or skin cancer incidence,” points out Dr. Hausauer. “More importantly, in many cases, people who take vitamin D supplements are the same people who also practice sun avoidance behaviors.”
Fort Lauderdale, FL dermatologist Dr. Matthew Elias agrees that it’s hard to comment on the findings without conjuring more questions. “How much vitamin D are they supplementing with? Are they supplementing their vitamin D with other skin-safe practices? Since the study was from a population in Finland, how does this correlate to areas that are known to have higher incidences of non-melanoma skin cancers like Australia or the Southern U.S.?” All essential questions which led Dr. Elias to his belief that yes, it is possible, but when it comes to why he doesn’t believe “anyone can answer that at this time.”
The bottom line is that vitamin D supplements are beneficial, if not for cancer risk mitigation, for strengthening the immune system, enhancing mood, reducing blood pressure and more. “Behaviors are complex. Cancer causality is complex. I think we should view these results with optimistic caution until we have direct causality studies,” says Dr. Hausauer. In the meantime, the correct dosage of vitamin D supplements won’t hurt, and it just might lower your cancer risk.
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