Vitamin D levels associated with survival in lymphoma patients

A new study has found that the amount of vitamin D in patients being treated for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma was strongly associated with cancer progression and overall survival. After rereading that sentence for the hundredth time, I realized how ambiguous it actually sounds…does it imply that high vitamin D levels are good or bad for lymphoma patients? Let me reassure you…it’s the former! 

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to poor outcomes in other types of cancer (breast, colon, neck and head, e.g.), but this happens to be THE first lymphoma-vitamin D study. Let’s first have a look at the December 9th Science Daily article (from which the potentially alarming excerpt was taken):

Here we learn that 50% of the group (374 patients) of large B-cell lymphoma patients evaluated in this study were found to be vitamin D deficient. 50%! Well, it turned out that the vitamin D-deficient patients were more likely to progress and…die…compared to patients with optimal vitamin D levels.

And read this: Recent studies have suggested that vitamin D deficiency may play a role in causing certain cancers as well as impacting the outcome once someone is diagnosed with cancer. I mean, even if you tend to scoff at the health benefits of vitamins and herbal supplements (as I used to do…and I still don’t take vitamins on a regular basis, with ONE big exception–vitamin D!), you cannot possibly ignore the significance of these findings.

Incidentally, this study was conducted by a Mayo Clinic/University of Iowa research team and financed by the National Cancer Institute and the Mayo Hematologic Malignancies Lymphoma Fund. The Mayo Clinic, need I say more? The team presented their results at the ASH annual meeting on December 5th, so I looked for and found the  paper on the ASH website

It’s easy to read and provides a lot of details, so please go have a look. The paper concludes that Vitamin D deficient patients have an inferior event-free and overall survival compared to patients with vitamin D levels within the normal range. Okay, that statement is crystal clear…not ambiguous at all. The researchers recommend that vitamin D testing for lymphoma patients be conducted in a clinical setting. Good idea.

Well, this question popped into my head, of course: what about myeloma patients? Is vitamin D testing the norm for us? Probably not. It certainly is not the norm here in Italy. In fact, the first person who insisted that I have my vitamin D levels checked was my friend Sherlock. If that is the case everywhere, then I think we should put pressure on our MM organizations to check out the possible link between myeloma progression and vitamin D levels…But I have to do some research first. There may already be a myeloma-vit D study out there (doubt it…).  

Okay, let’s see…back to the paper…based on the vitamin D reference range given here, I am (or was, in October) borderline vit D deficient. Ouch! (Okay, okay, no surprise there, I already knew that…) Since I have always hated being in the sun and never used to take vitamins…or anything else, for that matter!…I bet that my levels of vitamin D have always been low. Unfortunately, it never occurred to me that the vitamin D test might be important, so I never had one. Hmmm, come to think of it, I rarely had any blood tests done before 1999. Ah, how things have changed!!!

Well, better late than never. May this be a good lesson for all of us: 1. we should have our vitamin D levels tested, 2. go see a good endocrinologist, and 3. if need be, supplement with vitamin D. Yes, I have definitely become a vitamin D believer…! And let’s not forget that vitamin D may prevent H1N1. Oh, by the way, a TON of information can be found on the Vitamin D Council website: Okay, I have to get off the computer now and go fold the laundry…ciao a tutti! Oh, and thanks, LPC, for sending me the link to the SD article!


  1. Hey Hallie, you win the first-place prize. This was a test, you see, a test to see if my blog readers actually read my posts…you showed that you read them most carefully, which means you passed with flying colours…your prize is in the mail!
    Ok, I fess up: OOPS! 😉

  2. This is very interesting to me because, with both MGUS and scleroderma, I too have been found to be vitamin D deficient and must take high amounts of it (2000iu daily) on an ongoing basis in order to remain in the normal range. And scleroderma, too, has been found to be highly associated with vitamin D deficiency. Perhaps it’s why calcinosis (subcutaneous calcium deposits) develop in the people with CREST/scleroderma. Calcium mobilized from the bones and deposited elsewhere!

    My scleroderma doc says about 15% of his patients also have MGUS. And interestingly chemotherapy gives remissions for both MM and scleroderma. Lots of stuff in common there!

    Thanks for talking about this!

  3. My GP (MD) told a crowd of about 50 at a recent seminar at Gilda’s Club in Western New York on cancer and nutrition that in the 25 years she has tested local patients only 2 had normal vitamin D levels without supplementation. She has tested 100s if not 1000s of patients.

    It’s no wonder with weather like todays giving us clothes piercing gusts to 60 mph (96 kph)… High Wind Warning in effect until 7 PM EST this Evening… Lake effect snow warning in effect until 10 PM EST this evening… that anyone gets any sun exposure.


  4. Hi everybody.
    In Margaret’s blog, at section “Myeloma and Vitamin D” (see blue pages on the right) a link to a ASH paper is reported. This paper contains a table presenting the Serum 25-OH-VitD levels (ng/mL): a value 25 (and < 80) mean optimal level of Vitamin D.
    Well, I measured my Vit. D level (25-OH-VitD) a few days before going on a holyday on the Red Sea (Egypt). It was the end of a very cloudy and cold winter in Europe. I expected to have a low level: in fact it was 12 : almost severe deficiency (!!!) according to the mentioned table).
    A few days (really 3 or 4) after coming back from the holyday (which lasted 7 days) I managed to measure my 25-OH-Vit.D level again, in the same facility (hospital) and the result was 24: doubled !! This increase was got by a sun exposure of about 1 hour per day each of the 7 days and on a skin not of Celtic type (the clearest): in a scale from 1 to 7 I would say my skin is level 2.
    Both times I measured 1,25(OH)D too (normal range upper bound: 66). The value before the holiday was below the lower bound; the value after was 55 (!).

    So, it seems not so difficult to increase, by sun expos., our Vit. D.


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