May 23 --
FRIDAY, May 22 (HealthDay News) -- Low levels of vitamin D may contribute to cancer development, U.S. researchers have found.
"The first event in cancer is loss of communication among cells due to, among other things, low vitamin D and calcium levels," study leader Cedric Garland, an epidemiologist at the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego, said in a university news release.
Garland and colleagues developed a scientific model that suggests "this loss may play a key role in cancer by disrupting the communication between cells that is essential to healthy cell turnover, allowing more aggressive cancer cells to take over."
This cellular disruption could account for the earliest stages of many cancers, according to the study, which was published online in the Annals of Epidemiology.
Maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D may help stop cancer development, Garland suggested.
"Vitamin D may halt the first stage of the cancer process by re-establishing intercellular junctions in malignancies having an intact vitamin D receptor," Garland said.
He noted that appropriate vitamin D levels can be restored and maintained through diet and supplements. More research into the link between vitamin D and cancer is required, but Garland recommended that people get their vitamin D levels tested during annual check-ups.
The Office of Dietary Supplements at the U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about vitamin D.
SOURCE: Annals of Epidemiology, news release, May 22, 2009