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Fish and Sunlight May Lower Mesothelioma Risk

Want to lower your risk for malignant mesothelioma and other common cancers? Get more sunlight, eat more fish, and consider Vitamin D supplements.

That advice comes from Michael Holick, MD, PhD, a long-time expert in Vitamin D at Boston University and is supported by a growing body of new research. In an article in the Journal of Clinical & Translational Endocrinology, Dr. Holick discusses the relationship between blood levels of Vitamin D and deadly cancers like malignant mesothelioma.

“Although the exact mechanism by which enhanced vitamin D status reduces risk for cancer is not completely understood,” he writes, “there is evidence that by raising blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D this metabolite can enter a wide variety of cells in the body and then be converted to 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3.”

Now, a new Chinese study of 22 lung cancer trials appears to give even more credence to the cancer-fighting benefits of Vitamin D.

“This meta-analysis shows that high vitamin D (or calcium) intake and serum 25(OH)D levels correlate with lower lung cancer risk and better prognosis,” writes lead researcher Jian Liu of Zhejiang University in a recent issue of Oncotarget.

Vitamin D and Mesothelioma Risk

As early as 1916, researchers noted a link between people who did not get as much sunlight (because they lived in colder climates) and a higher risk of dying from cancer. But it was not until the 1980’s that an 8-year prospective case-controlled study drew a direct line between Vitamin D status and colon cancer.

The new Chinese study again links lower sun exposure and high latitude with lower levels of Vitamin D and higher incidence of lung cancer. Dr. Holick, too, cites a number of randomized controlled trials that list lung cancer, which is in many ways similar to pleural mesothelioma, among the 15 cancers associated with lower blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D.

“The vitamin D metabolite, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3, has been demonstrated to markedly reduce cellular proliferation especially of malignant cells that have a vitamin D receptor,” he writes.

The Impact of Vitamin D on Mesothelioma Cells

To grow into a life-threatening mesothelioma tumor, mesothelioma cells need to promote angiogenesis, or the formation of new blood vessels to feed the tumor. They also need to stave off apoptosis, the natural, programmed cell death cycle.

Multiple studies suggest that adequate blood levels of Vitamin D may both prevent angiogenesis and promote apoptosis, potentially reducing the growth and spread of malignant cells.

Malignant Mesothelioma and Vitamin D Supplementation

Malignant mesothelioma patients should always consult with a physician before beginning any supplementation regimen as certain supplements can interfere with treatment.

However, if the goal is to reduce the risk of cancer such as pleural mesothelioma, Dr. Holick recommends a combination of sensible sun exposure, Vitamin D supplementation and eating foods that contain Vitamin D as a “reasonable strategy”.

Sensible sun exposure is different for each person and depends on skin type, geographical location, and time of year. Evidence suggests that people over 65 are less likely to get the sun exposure they need to produce adequate Vitamin D. Most white people need only a few minutes of sunlight daily to increase their levels.

The institute of medicine recommends a daily allowance of 600 IU of Vitamin D daily, from a combination of sunlight, supplements, and food sources. Foods rich in Vitamin D include salmon, mackerel, tuna, and egg yolks.


Liu, J, et al, “Meta-analysis of the correlation between vitamin D and lung cancer risk and outcomes”, October 6, 2017, Oncotarget, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317998438

Holick, MF, “Cancer, sunlight and Vitamin D”, Journal of Translational Endocrinology, December 2014, pp. 179-186, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214623714000386#!

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