If you are living with lung cancer, you may be curious as to what role vitamin D plays in your condition and overall well-being. As one MyLungCancerTeam member said, “My husband’s calcium dipped a bit, so I was notified today to go get him some over-the-counter calcium and vitamin D to help enhance his infusion.”
Current research suggests there is a connection between vitamin D and lung cancer, though more research is needed. Speak with your doctor before increasing your vitamin D intake, as they are best equipped to determine whether doing so can be beneficial for your specific diagnosis and treatment plan.
Vitamin D is a nutrient that your body needs to make your muscles move, help your nerves send signals, and allow your immune system to fight off bacteria and viruses that can make you sick. Vitamin D is also important so bones can absorb the calcium they need to be strong and healthy.
There are two kinds of vitamin D: vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Vitamin D2 is mostly found in plants, mushrooms, and yeast. Vitamin D3 can be found in oily fish and is also made in the body during sun exposure. Additionally, vitamin D3 is later converted to 25-hydroxycholecalciferol, which helps turn on and off the genes that allow vitamin D to carry out its function in the body.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, foods that are good sources of vitamin D include:
Your body breaks vitamin D down into its active form, called 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D — which is also known as calcitriol. It’s available as a supplement that can be taken daily or weekly. This active form of vitamin D can affect the cells involved in the immune system.
Vitamin D is known for its health benefits and potentially preventative effects on several types of cancer. As such, you may wonder what impact it may have on lung cancer.
Research suggests that for some people, vitamin D may be helpful in preventing and treating lung cancer. One possible explanation for this is vitamin D’s role in pulmonary inflammation. Along with its anti-inflammatory properties, vitamin D is also believed to be antiangiogenic (it can prevent the growth of new blood vessels) and antimetastatic (it can prevent the spread of cancer cells).
Some research shows that vitamin D may also be beneficial to people currently undergoing lung cancer treatment. For example, a 2018 study found that vitamin D might help prolong survival for people in the early stages of non-small cell lung cancer who are vitamin D deficient.
Though the current research shows vitamin D may be beneficial in preventing and treating lung cancer, more research is needed to determine if and how vitamin D supplementation may be helpful for people with lung cancer. If you are concerned about your vitamin D levels, the best first step is always to talk to your health care provider.
Scientists still haven’t performed enough research to definitively determine whether vitamin D supplementation would be effective for people with lung cancer across the board. They agree, however, that people with low levels of the vitamin can benefit from taking supplements.
It’s important to have a conversation with your oncologist before starting on any supplements, as your physician can best advise you regarding how supplements may affect your specific case. Importantly, there is a risk that comes along with taking too much vitamin D. The federal Office of Dietary Supplements warns that too much vitamin D can cause nausea and vomiting, muscle weakness, confusion, pain, dehydration, and kidney stones, among other side effects. Vitamin D can also interact with some medications.
Monitoring a vitamin D deficiency is only one part of your cancer care, and having open conversations about your concerns is the best way for you and your doctor to be on the same page about your treatment goals.
On MyLungCancerTeam, the social network and online support group for people with lung cancer and their loved ones, members discuss the chronic nature of the disease. Here, more than 3,000 members from across the world come together to ask questions, offer advice and support, and share stories with others who understand life with lung cancer.
Have you ever investigated your vitamin D status? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation on MyLungCancerTeam.