Recent research has suggested many explanations for the disproportionate number of prostate cancer deaths between black and white men. Some of the possible suggestions from the team at University of North Carolina Lineberger include that black men may be less likely to receive aggressive treatments due to cost concerns, greater worries about how the “medicine” will effect their day-to-day lives, greater concerns about recovery time, and a general tendency to underestimate the severity of their cancer.
These assertions are certainly not without their merits; after all, the scientists surveyed 1,171 men to gather their findings. Past research has shown that black men have up to a 74 percent higher chance of developing prostate cancer, and the disparity doesn’t stop there. Prostate cancer affects black men at a higher rate both in terms of mortality and overall occurrence. These facts have left many people trying to figure out why. But it is interesting that of all the possible explanations they “found” for this increased risk of death from prostate cancer, there was no mention of one of the driving factors behind African American males’ increased risk of getting it to begin with: vitamin D deficiency.
You may have heard that black people are more likely to develop a vitamin D deficiency, but did you know that research has shown that a deficiency in the “sun vitamin” can also increase your risk of prostate cancer?
Vitamin D deficiency is linked to prostate cancer risk
As Harvard Prostate Knowledge, the brain child of Harvard Medical School and Harvard Health Publications, explains, being deficient in this vital nutrient can have many consequences — and one of them is an increased risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer. As the organization explains, “New findings suggest that prostate tumors in particular can become highly aggressive when a man’s vitamin D levels are too low. A report in the journal Clinical Cancer Research showed that the lower the vitamin D level, the more aggressive the prostate cancer.”
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In groups of both European and African American men, the researchers reportedly found that lower levels of vitamin D coincided with increasingly aggressive prostate cancer — and that this association was even stronger in African American men with low vitamin D levels. In other words, it may be that African American men are more susceptible to developing aggressive prostate cancer as a result of vitamin D deficiency.
Evidence has shown that vitamin D may help to protect against prostate cancer, and recent findings have shown that the opposite also seems to hold true.
Vitamin D deficiency, cancer and what you can do
Similar findings regarding African American mortality from other types of cancer due to vitamin D deficiency have also been observed. As Live Science reports, a 2011 study found that vitamin D deficiency was a factor in disproportionate colon cancer deaths for African American men, as well.
Past estimates have suggested that some 75 percent of black people in the United States suffer from vitamin D deficiency — and those living north of Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina or central California are going to be especially susceptible to deficiency due to the low angle of the sun’s rays.
Vitamin D deficiency can also lead to weaker bones and other health concerns, so making sure you get enough of the good stuff every day is essential. Besides getting vitamin D from the sun, you can also talk to your naturopath about taking a supplement — especially if you live in an area that isn’t quite so sunny. There are not many foods that contain vitamin D, but fatty fish such as salmon, eggs, mushrooms and vitamin D-fortified foods are some good options as well.