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High level of Vitamin D may lower cancer risk

Raghu Kshitiz

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High levels of vitamin D may be linked to a lower risk of developing cancer, including liver cancer, a study published in the British Medical Journal has said.

The study, conducted by a team of international researchers in Japan, stated that the findings support the theory that vitamin D might help protect against some cancers.

Vitamin D is made by the skin in response to sunlight. It helps to maintain calcium levels in the body to keep bones, teeth, and muscles healthy. While the benefits of vitamin D on bone diseases are well known, there is growing evidence that Vitamin D may benefit other chronic diseases, including some cancers.

“We believe vitamin D has a maybe weak, but beneficial effect across many cancers,” said Taiki Yamaji, co-author of the study from the Center for Public Health Sciences at the National Cancer Center in Tokyo.

But so far, most studies have been carried out in European or American populations, and evidence from Asian populations is limited.

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As Vitamin D concentrations and metabolism can vary by ethnicity, it is important to find out whether similar effects would be seen in non-Caucasian populations.

Researchers analysed data from the Japan Public Health Center-based Prospective (JPHC) Study, involving 33,736 male and female participants aged between 40 to 69 years.

Participants, at the start of the study, provided detailed information on their medical history, diet, lifestyle, and blood samples were taken to measure vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D levels varied depending on the time of year the sample was taken, tend to be higher during the summer and autumn months than in the winter or spring.

After accounting for this seasonal variation, samples were split into four groups, ranging from the lowest to highest levels of vitamin D.

Participants were then monitored for an average of 16 years, during which time 3,301 new cases of cancer were recorded.

After adjusting for several known cancer risk factors, such as age, weight (BMI), physical activity levels, smoking, alcohol intake and dietary factors, the researchers found that a higher level of vitamin D was associated with a lower (around 20 percent) relative risk of overall cancer in both men and women.

Higher vitamin D levels were also associated with a lower (30-50 percent) relative risk of liver cancer, and the association was more evident in men than in women.

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No association was found for lung or prostate cancer, and the authors note that none of the cancers examined showed an increased risk associated with higher vitamin D levels.

Findings were largely unchanged after accounting for additional dietary factors and after further analyses to test the strength of the results.

The authors said their findings support the theory that vitamin D may protect against the risk of cancer, but that there may be a ceiling effect, which may suggest that there are no additional benefits beyond a certain level of vitamin D.

With Agency Inputs

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Commonly used heart, diabetes drugs may help ease mental illness

Raghu Kshitiz

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Commonly used drugs to combat physical health diseases, such as, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes could bring significant benefits to people with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or non-affective psychoses, according to a study led by University College London (UCL).

The researchers say their findings have “enormous potential”. But they, and independent experts, say the results now need to be tested in clinical trials.

The study published in JAMA Psychiatry assessed the health data records of over 142,000 Swedish patients with serious mental illnesses — including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The starting point for the researchers was a list of currently prescribed medications that science predicts could also help patients with severe mental health disorders.

The researchers found that those patients typically fared better during periods when they were taking certain medications to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes.

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The study focused on those patients who had either been prescribed Hydroxylmethyl glutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors (HMG-CoA RIs), more commonly known as statins—which are used to reduce cholesterol/heart disease, L-type calcium channel antagonists (LTCC), used to reduce high blood pressure, or biguanides (such as metformin), used to treat diabetes.

“Serious mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder, are associated with high levels of morbidity and are challenging to treat,” Lead author, Dr. Joseph Hayes (UCL Psychiatry), said, “Many widely used drugs, such as statins, have long been identified as having the potential for repurposing to benefit these disorders.”

“Many widely used drugs, such as statins, have long been identified as having the potential for repurposing to benefit these disorders,” Dr Hayes added.

This study is the first to use large population data sets to compare patient’s exposure to these commonly used drugs and the potential effects on people with serious mental illnesses.

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