Cancer is a term used to refer to a large number of diseases that are characterized by the development of abnormal cells that tend to grow uncontrollably and destroy the normal body tissues. The second leading cause of death around the globe, cancer is a severe disease that leads to multiple complications. There are not just one but several types of cancers that can affect a person such as breast cancer, blood cancer, colon cancer, testicular cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, stomach cancer, etc. This condition is caused due to the mutation of DNA within the cells. This gene mutation allows rapid growth of unhealthy cells, making mistakes while repairing DNA errors and leads to an uncontrolled cell growth.
Where cancer is such a severe disease that it can lead to death, the good news is that it can be prevented. In an ongoing research on cancer it has been found that the sunshine vitamin or Vitamin D is associated with certain kinds of cancers. Let us take a deep dive into this article and learn more about cancer, role of Vitamin D in cancer along with some rich sources of vitamin D that can help you to maintain adequate levels of the vitamin in the body with Dr. Amit Bhargava, Senior Consultant - Medical Oncology, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad.
What is Cancer?
Cancer can be simply understood as a group of several related diseases due to which there is an uncontrollable growth of cells that tend to divide rapidly over time. The development of abnormal cells that tend to grow uncontrollably and destroy the normal body tissues. These cancerous cells tend to clump together in order to form a tumor. These tumors not just destroy the healthy cells surrounding the tumor but also damage the healthy body tissues and makes a person very sick.
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In some cases the cancerous cells break away from the tumor and different parts of the body. These cells then infect the cells at that site as well and result in the further spread of cancer. Cancer is not a contagious disease and hence can not be transmitted from one person to the other and is neither caused due to any kind of bacterial infection. Where the actual cause of this disease hasn’t been found yet, some lifestyle habits such as drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes are said to be the great contributors. Where different types of cancers come in with different symptoms but some of the common shared signs of cancer are-
- Change in weight
- Feeling discomfort after eating
- Night sweats and unexplained fever
- Presence of lump or abnormal skin thickening
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Change in bowel movement
- Difficulty in breathing
- Unexplained bruising or bleeding
- Persistent cough
- Slight change in skin colour
Role of Vitamin D in Cancer
With ongoing research in cancer, the role of vitamin D has also shown association with certain cancers. Trials suggest that low values of this vitamin leads to interference in the epithelial lining of the colon which is one of the causative agents for malignancy. Dr. Amit Bhargava says “To my understanding vitamin D, not only takes care of your bones, but also helps in the process of repairing defective genes formed. A process called MMR (mis-match repair) requires the presence of the active form of vitamin D to function properly. If the defective genes are formed due to interference of MMR Mechanisms, it might lead to causing cancer.”
Certain cancers like ovarian breast, colon, prostate and multiple myelomas have shown strong association with deficiency of vitamin D3. Stronger and much robust trials need to be conducted to establish the role in other malignancies and also risk reduction benefits of supplementation. Vitamin d is a group of fat soluble prohormones that are activated within our body in the liver and kidney. It helps the body for calcium and phosphorus metabolism to keep bones and teeth strong.
Sources of Vitamin D
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Where vitamin D is popularly known as the sunshine vitamin, sunlight is the best, natural and abundant source of the essential vitamin. Let us take a quick look at some of the dietary sources of this vitamin that you can include in your diet to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D and prevent cancer.
- Fatty fish
- Fish liver oil
- Fortified milk
- Fortified juices
- Fortified breakfast cereals
Daily vitamin d requirement is 15 micrograms whereas the deficiency should be taken care of, by the use of supplements to maintain healthy blood vit d levels.
With inputs from Dr. Amit Bhargava, Senior Consultant - Medical Oncology, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad.