Researchers from the Medical University at South Carolina this month published a study in which Vitamin D was administered over a year to men with slow-growing prostate cancer. The results astounded the clinicians, indicating a strong correlation between Vitamin D levels and prostate health. Prostate cancer tends to develop in men over the age of 50 and, although it is one of the most prevalent types of cancer in men, many men never develop symptoms. About two-thirds of cases are slow growing, the other third are more aggressive and fast growing.

The decision to leave the condition untreated is a calculated risk when it comes to prostate health. Urologists look at a number of factors in prostate cancer to decide how to treat (if at all) prostate cancer. These factors include:

  • Gleason Score: given to prostate cancer based upon its microscopic appearance. Cancers with a higher Gleason score are more aggressive and have a worse prognosis. The Gleason scores range from 2 to 10, with 10 having the worst prognosis.
  • Core biopsies positive: The percentage of positive cores varies and often changes over time.
  • PSA: a tumor marker that, taken with the other two factors above, may indicate prostate cancer. The higher the score, and the more rapidly it climbs, the worse the prognosis. It usually slowly increases over time in men with low-grade prostate cancer.

All of these factors, along with the presence or absence of cancer spread, change over time and influence whether or not a doctor and patient decide to treat the prostate cancer.

According to the Vitamin D Council’s report on the study, if you took 20 men with low-risk prostate cancer and do nothing but biopsy them again in a year, about 10 percent of the men will no longer have any cores positive. However, most men will have either more cores positive or a higher Gleason score or higher PSA or all three.

In the South Carolina study, researchers administered 4,000 IU/day of Vitamin D for one year to 44 men with slow-growing prostate cancer. Of the 44, 60 percent showed a decrease in the number of positive cores or a decrease in their Gleason scores, or both. Only 34 percent showed an increase in the number of positive cores or an increase in their Gleason scores. 6 percent were unchanged over the year. PSA levels did not go up over the year. The authors classified 60 percent of the men as “responders” to vitamin D and 40 percent as “non-responders.”

Fifteen of the 44 men (34 percent) no longer had any cores positive. However, PSA did not go down so they may or may not still have prostate cancer. It also appeared that baseline Vitamin D levels were important because men with higher baseline Vitamin D levels had fewer cores positive for cancer and lower Gleason scores. The scientists are strongly encouraged by these findings, and hope the study will lead to further research into the effect of Vitamin D on prostate health.