London: Bowel cancer patients with high levels of vitamin D in their blood are more likely to survive the disease, says a study.
Patients with the highest levels of vitamin D have half the risk of dying compared to those with the lowest levels, the findings showed.
Often referred to as "sunshine vitamin", vitamin D is made in the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. The very few foods in nature that contain vitamin D include the flesh of fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna and mackerel) and fish liver oils.
"Measuring vitamin D levels in bowel cancer patients could also provide a useful indication of prognosis," the scientists noted.
For the study, researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Britain tested blood samples from almost 1,600 patients after surgery for bowel cancer.
The greatest benefit of vitamin D was seen in patients with stage 2 disease, at which the tumour may be quite large but the cancer has not yet spread.
Three quarters of the patients with the highest vitamin D levels were still alive at the end of five years, compared with less than two thirds of those with the lowest levels, the findings showed.
"Our findings are promising but it is important to note that this is an observational study. We need carefully designed randomised clinical trials before we can confirm whether taking vitamin D supplements offers any survival benefit for bowel cancer patients," professor Malcolm Dunlop from the University of Edinburgh added.