Doctors, Researchers Should Stress Cancer Prevention

By Massey, Patrick B. | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), June 6, 2005 | Go to article overview

Doctors, Researchers Should Stress Cancer Prevention


Massey, Patrick B., Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Patrick B. Massey, M.D.

Although doctors and researchers have had a number of successes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, we need to stress cancer prevention.

Prevention is the key to reducing cancer, but only a small percent of the resources devoted to cancer are used to encourage prevention. For example, many sources give information on cancer screening and treatment, but scant information is available on how to avoid getting sick.

A case in point is prostate cancer. In Illinois, almost 10,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed each year. Many people diagnosed will have surgery, radiation and other procedures. Yet, a significant percentage of these cancers might be preventable - possibly by something as simple as taking a dietary supplement.

Prostate cancer is more common among African-Americans and men living in northern climates. There is a straightforward connection between these two groups that might help to prevent prostate cancer: vitamin D.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps deposit calcium in the bone. Interestingly, vitamin D needs sunlight to become activated. Increased melatonin in the skin of African-Americans reduces the activation of vitamin D. Those living in northern climates have less overall sun exposure (and vitamin D activation).

A recent study in the medical news journal Internal Medicine World Report concluded that higher blood levels of activated vitamin D were associated with a considerably reduced risk of prostate cancer. This data came from the Physicians Health Study, which tracked 1,082 physicians who developed and later died from prostate cancer and compared them to 1,701 other men of the same age.

What was discovered was that those with lower levels of vitamin D were at double the risk of developing prostate cancer and had three to four times the risk of contracting aggressive prostate cancer compared to the other men. …

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