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Supplements for Cancer: Vitamin D

Vitamin D is one of the most studied supplements for cancer prevention and treatment right now.

Vitamin D is of interest not so much because of results of clinical trials, but because of our evolving understanding of the key role it plays in cell [development] and the fact that so many people are really deficient in vitamin D,” says Tim Byers, MD, deputy director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center.

Epidemiological studies have found that people with cancer often have lower circulating levels of vitamin D in their blood. However, the research is mixed.

In a study presented at the 2008 meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, researchers found that vitamin D deficiency was more common among women diagnosed with breast cancer. The study also found that vitamin D deficiency may raise the risk of breast cancer spreading, and raise the risk of death from breast cancer.

But in a large National Cancer Institute study, researchers found no association between blood levels of vitamin D and cancer death, with the possible exception of colorectal cancer. People with high levels of vitamin D were 72% less likely than those with low levels to die of colorectal cancer.

Also, some studies have found that vitamin D may protect against prostate cancer, while other studies have found that it doesn’t help.

There continues to be a flurry of research looking at vitamin D’s role in cancer. More research is needed to truly understand the relationship.

Supplements for Cancer: Garlic

Many studies have found that people who eat a lot of garlic are less likely to develop certain common cancers.

That garlic research has led scientists to wonder whether garlic may have cancer-treating properties as well as cancer-prevention capabilities. Although studies are not yet conclusive, there is some evidence that garlic may be useful for cancer in conjunction with medical treatments.

For starters, garlic may be beneficial for cancer patients owing to its immune-boosting abilities, which vary depending on how the garlic has been processed. Additionally, certain substances found in garlic have been shown to suppress growth and fight certain cancerous cells in the lab, including forms of breast and lung cancer.

Early studies have shown that eating garlic can decrease the risk of colorectal cancer and stomach cancer. The same benefit was not found with garlic supplements. However, preliminary prostate cancer research on men in China has shown that both eating garlic and garlic supplements may decrease the risk of prostate cancer.

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