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Less Severe Melanoma Linked with Higher Levels of Vitamin D

Posted: September 29, 2009

Potentially arguing the case for people's needfor more vitamin D, a recent study has shown melanoma patients whose bodies contain higher levels of the vitamin typically have less severe forms of the cancer.

Higher levels of vitamin D are linked to less severe, less deadly melanoma lesions in people with skin cancer, new research suggests. The findings provide more support for the idea that vitamin D is crucial to skin health. Many Americans, however, don't get enough of it, perhaps because they limit sun exposure and drink less milk than in the past.

"Although avoiding sunburn is very important in order to prevent melanoma, it is also important to avoid becoming deficient in vitamin D," said Dr. Julia A. Newton-Bishop, a dermatology professor at the University of Leeds in England and a study co-author. "This is especially important for melanoma patients in whom low vitamin D levels appear to be harmful."

Newton-Bishop and her research colleagues looked at the medical records of 872 people with melanoma and tried to link their vitamin D levels to the severity of their lesions and their likelihood of surviving without a relapse. Those with higher levels of vitamin D in their bodies had less severe lesions—the lesions were thinner—and a lower rate of relapse, the researchers found.

The results are reported in the Sept. 14 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. "The research suggests that low levels of vitamin D allow the melanoma tumors to grow better and, therefore, to be more of a threat to the patient," Newton-Bishop said.