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Newsletter: Vitamin D and colon cancer press release

Posted on: December 6, 2003   by  John Cannell, MD


We want to alert you to two studies that were recently reported in the press. The first study confirmed previous studies showing that: vitamin D deficiency is the rule rather than the exception in the elderly, falls in the elderly are associated with vitamin D deficiency and vitamin D supplements reduce such falls. Dr. Flicker, at the University of Western Australia, who has frequently written about the pandemic of vitamin D deficiency in the elderly, called for immediate steps to begin diagnosing and treating vitamin D deficiency.

The second press article concerns a study by Dr. Grau and colleagues with an accompanying editorial in the December Journal of the National Cancer Institute. It contains a disturbing quotation from an expert “researcher,” Dr. Elizabeth Jacobs, who wrote the editorial. Dr. Grau, Dartmouth Medical School, reported on the relationship between colon cancer, calcium and vitamin D. In an important finding, Dr. Grau found that the previously described inverse relationship between vitamin D levels and colon cancer required adequate dietary calcium. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=14652238&dopt=Abstract.

In the late 1980’s, the Garland brothers first showed that high vitamin D levels are associated with a very significant decrease in colon cancer. The Johns Hopkins cohort that the Garlands and their co-authors reported on 14 years ago contained more than 25,000 persons followed more than ten years to see if they developed colon cancer. Subjects with a 25(OH)D level above 20 ng/ml had 1/3 the risk of colon cancer compared to subjects below that level. For subjects who were vitamin D replete (above 33 ng/ml), the risk of colon cancer was reduced by a whopping 80%! http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=2572900&dopt=Abstract

Dr. Grau added to the large scientific literature showing vitamin D repletion helps protect against numerous cancers. The WebMD news service, among others, reported on the recent Grau study. WebMD quoted Dr. Elizabeth Jacobs, a research associate at the Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson, who wrote the accompanying editorial. She said, “I know people get sick of hearing this, but we need more studies before we can make specific recommendations.” By calling for further studies before changing current practice, Dr. Jacobs is calling for the status quo, i.e., not diagnosing or treating the millions of Americans with vitamin D deficiency.

Furthermore, it is quite possible that neither Dr. Jacobs nor most of the editors of The Journal of the National Cancer Institute are even aware of the current pandemic of vitamin D deficiency even though NIH recently sponsored a conference on the subject, http://cholecalciferol-council.com/PRBlacks_and_vitamin_D.pdf. Anyone who attended the NIH vitamin D conference learned about the body count (for example, epidemiological evidence of 28,000 excess cancer deaths a year in the USA from vitamin D deficiency). Dr. Jacobs was not on the attendee list. In fact, we could find no evidence that Dr. Jacobs has ever published anything about vitamin D.

However, she is concerned people are sick of her advice to do nothing about the pandemic of vitamin D deficiency until further studies are available. Yes, Dr. Jacobs, people are sick from such advice; in fact, they are dying from it.

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