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No association between vitamin D and fatigue in cancer patients

Posted on: October 28, 2011   by  John Cannell, MD


Fatigue and loss of appetite are two of the most common symptoms among cancer patients and are two of the most disabling of cancers many symptoms. Everyone has assumed both symptoms are due to the cancer, so there is no good treatment. However, a group led by Dr. Rony Dev from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center reviewed the records of 100 patients with cancer and one of these two these symptoms.

Dev R, Del Fabbro E, Schwartz GG, Hui D, Palla SL, Gutierrez N, Bruera E. Preliminary Report: Vitamin D Deficiency in Advanced Cancer Patients with Symptoms of Fatigue or Anorexia. Oncologist. 2011 Sep 30.

What they found is that 70% of the patients were vitamin D deficient (<30 ng/ml), including 82% of the African Americans. They also confirmed that very low vitamin D levels are associated with very low testosterone and remind us that an interventional trial of obese but otherwise healthy men showed vitamin D dramatically increased testosterone levels.

However, they were unable to associate either fatigue or loss of appetite with vitamin D deficiency, perhaps because they did not examine cancer patients who did not have one of those two symptoms. They did review the hopeful studies that show those cancer patients with the highest vitamin D levels live longer, although they forgot to add the same finding in a paper on the leukemias that was published earlier this year.

In animals, vitamin D lessens the symptoms of chemotherapy and in humans; four of five studies show higher vitamin D levels are associated with longer life. I suggest everyone with cancer take enough vitamin D to have high normal levels, that is, 70-80 ng/ml. In addition, don’t forget sunlight or sunbeds; it is possible UVB light does more than just make vitamin D. We know it makes 5-6 steroid-like substances that scientists have not studied, and that it also makes endorphins, which should make most cancer patients feel better.

The sad thing about most cancers is that the cancers seem to know that they must kill off the vitamin D system if they are to survive; in fact one known oncogene (genes that are revved up in cancer) is the gene that destroys vitamin D. That reminds me of the preacher, speaking about Stonewall Jackson, who said that when God decided the South had to lose the Civil War, God knew he had to kill Stonewall Jackson. Most, but not all, cancer cells are like that.

4 Responses to No association between vitamin D and fatigue in cancer patients

  1. [email protected]

    Spelling mistake in headline….should be “Association”.

    • Brant Cebulla

      Thanks Roger

  2. rghammonds

    You have an incorrect link in your latest newsletter.

    The link under “Vitamin D deficiency associated with increased risk of mortality in elderly” takes you to this page instead of the correct one.

    Just thought you might like to know!

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