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  • Writer's pictureDavid S Klein, MD

Reducing Cancer Risk with Vitamin D-3

Latest Lowdown on Vitamin -3

For starters, Vitamin D-3 is not a vitamin at all.  Vitamin D is a family of steroidal hormones that the body needs to acquire from the environment to maintain an ever increasingly appreciated importance to the maintenance of health. Vitamin D occurs in 3 morphologies- Vitamin D1, D2 and D3.  Vitamin D-3 is made in the gut from D-2, which is essentially inactive. Vitamin D-3 is derived from cholesterol and is structurally similar to estrogen, testosterone and other essential hormones. 


Vitamin D-3, in doses of at least 2,000 IU/day will decrease the risk of breast cancer by 50%; reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 50%. 

  1. Pharmaceutical-grade Vitamin D-3 costs about $6 per month.

  2. It should be taken in the morning with a fish-oil capsule, to enhance absorption.

  3. Higher doses are indicated in the presence of rheumatoid arthritis, M.S., and other auto-immune disease processes.


Vitamin D-3 (cholecalciferol) is being shown to help prevent multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis and even prostate cancer. (See Daily Health News, March 29, 2004 and July 26, 2005.) Now it turns out that it may do even more — vitamin D and calcium may help prevent premenstrual syndrome (PMS). In the Nurses’ Health Study II (a large study of nurses that has been ongoing since 1989), women who consumed higher levels of these two nutrients faced a lower risk of premenstrual symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, mood swings and stomach cramps.

Doses of Vitamin D-3 (2,000 IU) have been shown to reduce the risk of breast, prostate, colon and pancreatic cancer by as much as 50%.


About the study

In the retrospective study, researchers from the University of Massachusetts, Harvard University and the University of Iowa examined the diets of 1,057 women who reported PMS symptoms and 1,068 who did not. They found that…

Women who consumed nearly twice the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin D (the RDA for vitamin D is 400 international units, or IU) — the equivalent of seven or more cups of milk — were 40% less likely to experience PMS than women who consumed the vitamin D equivalent of one cup or less of milk daily. Women who took in one-and-one-half times the RDA of calcium (RDA is approximately 1,000 mg depending on your age) the equivalent of four-and-one-half or more cups of milk) were 30% less likely to experience PMS than women who consumed the calcium equivalent of less than half a cup of milk daily. These results were reported in the June 12, 2005, issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

What this means to you

While the study makes clear some kind of association between vitamin D, calcium, magnesium and PMS, the diary format of the study does not appropriately isolate each element to show causation. So what does that mean and what should you do?

According to Wendy Vannoy, ND, a naturopathic physician in Portland, Oregon, women often don’t get enough calcium and vitamin D — two nutrients that are especially critical during the childbearing years.

Since milk and other dairy products are not necessarily the best sources of calcium, Daily Health News contributing editor Andrew L. Rubman, ND, suggests other good dietary sources of calcium, such as broccoli, spinach, collard greens and turnip greens.


Recent studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency is very, very common, indeed.  It may be a co-morbid factor in the development of chronic pain as well as contributory to the development of a host of auto-immune disease.


If you’re not taking in sufficient nutrients (and most of us don’t), Dr. Vannoy recommends taking a good daily multivitamin along with a calcium/magnesium supplement. (The magnesium will help with the absorption of the calcium.) Dr. Vannoy has found that getting proper nutrition combined with regular sleep and exercise can significantly reduce PMS symptoms for many women.

  • Who needs additional amounts of vitamin D?

  • Anyone with inadequate caloric or nutritional dietary intake or  increased nutritional requirements.

  • Older people (over 55 years), especially women after menopause. Pregnant or breast feeding women.

  • Those who abuse alcohol or drugs.

  • People who have recently undergone surgery.

  • People with recent severe burns or injuries.

D (cholecalciferol/ergocalciferol)

Vitamin D is the principal regulator of calcium homeostasis in the body. It is essential for skeletal development and bone mineralization. Vitamin D is a pro-hormone with no hormone activity. It is converted to a molecule that has biological activity. The active form of the vitamin is 1-25-dihydroxyvitamin D, usually referred to vitamin D3. It is synthesized in the skin from 7-dehydrocholesterol via phytochemical reactions requiring UV light (sunlight). Inadequate exposure to sunlight contributes to vitamin D deficiency. Increasing evidence suggests that vitamin D may also contribute to antioxidant function by inhibiting lipid peroxidation. The mechanism of the antioxidant effect is unknown. Vitamin D receptors have been identified in the pancreas.

Vitamin D deficiency in adults can lead to osteoporosis, which results from an imbalance between bone resorption and bone formation. Decreased vitamin D levels result in decreased production of the active vitamin form, vitamin D3. Vitamin D enhances the efficiency of calcium absorption. Chronic vitamin D deficiency results in a decreased calcium absorption and secondary hyperparathyriodism.

Vitamin D has also been found to have anti-carcinogenic activity, including apoptosis in many types of cancer cells. It has also been useful in the treatment of psoriasis when applied topically. Vitamin D appears to demonstrate both immune-enhancing and immunosuppressive effects.

Supplemental vitamin D is available as vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) or vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). The Food and Nutrition Board of the institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences recognizes the biological activity of vitamins D2 and D3 are equivalent with age related intakes. Dosages over 3000 IU/day area associated with hypercalcemia, causing multiple debilitating effects. Anorexia, nausea and vomiting have been observed at doses as low as 1250 IU/day. The prolonged ingestion of excessive vitamin D and the accompanying hypercalcemia can result in metastatic calcification of soft tissues, including kidney, blood vessels, heart and lungs.

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