Low levels of vitamin D has been linked to poor prognosis in patients with aggressive lymphoma, according to a new study presented at the American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting and Exposition in New Orleans in December.

According to background information provided by the study’s authors, vitamin D has effects on cellular differentiation, proliferation, apoptosis, and angiogenesis. Furthermore, several reports suggest that vitamin D sufficiency is protective against the development of several cancers, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). The authors noted that many physicians recommend 800-1200 International Units (IU) of vitamin D daily.

Matthew Drake, MD, PhD, an endocrinologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and colleagues conducted a study that involved 374 newly diagnosed diffuse large B-cell lymphoma patients, half of whom were identified as having a vitamin D deficiency (defined as a total serum 25-O-D less than 25 mg/mL).

Researchers found that vitamin deficiency was associated with inferior overall and event-free survival (defined as progression, retreatment, or death due to any cause). Patients with deficient vitamin D levels had a greater risk of disease progression and risk of dying, compared with patients with sufficient vitamin D levels after accounting for other patient factors associated with worse outcomes.


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“The findings support the growing association between vitamin D and cancer risk and outcomes, and suggest that vitamin D supplements might help even those patients already diagnosed with some forms of cancer,” explained Dr. Drake. “The exact roles that vitamin D might play in the initiation or progression of cancer is unknown, but we do know that the vitamin plays a role in regulation of cell growth and death, among other processes important in limiting cancer.”