Vitamin D and Prostate Cancer | Helpline Questions
Hi, I’m Dr. Scholz. The subject of vitamin D comes up frequentlywhen talking about prostate cancer. Why isthat? Well, probably because men with prostatecancer are often treated with hormonal therapywhich causes accelerated calcium loss fromthe bones and that needs to be counteracted. Adequate vitamin D levels help improve theabsorption of calcium from the intestine intothe bloodstream. So everyone who is gettinghormonal therapy, typically, is advised totake some calcium at bedtime and some vitaminD. The subject of vitamin D and metabolism andtreatment is fast and very controversial. Some people claim it improves your immunesystem, it does all kinds of other magicalthings. I’ve seen this pattern over and overwith all kinds of supplements where discoveriesare made that they’re necessary and then thepublic tends to go overboard and believe thatmassive amounts are going to be useful. Theproblem with that thinking is that massiveamounts of anything are almost never useful,and so the appropriate approach, at leastwith vitamin D is to test the levels in theblood, and I don’t know why that’s not talkedabout more frequently. People talk about youshould take a thousand or 2,000 or 5,000,or 400, but it really is predicated on whetheror not your levels are low. And it turns outthat the general population that I see (menin their 60s, 70s, and 80s) about 25% of menrun low vitamin D levels—that is, below30—and low vitamin D is going to mess upcalcium metabolism and can have other deleteriouseffects. So, testing once a year should bean appropriate part of everyone’s annual physicalexam. If vitamin D levels are low I would recommendstarting 1,000 to 2,000 units a day and thenretesting after about three or four months. It takes a while for new levels to equilibrateonce the vitamin D has been started. You can’tcheck it a week or two later. And then oncenormal levels are achieved periodic rechecksare necessary to ensure that it is maintainedand also to make sure that the levels don’tgo too high. So, in summary, vitamin D isa very appropriate thing for men with prostatecancer, especially those that are on hormonaltherapy. But it starts by checking blood levels,not by picking some arbitrary amount of 1,000,2,000, 5,000 units a day because your levelsmay already be adequate and getting too muchvitamin D is a potentially negative thingthat could lead to problems instead of becominga solution.