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eggs, cheese, and olive oil fighting melanoma on a face

Vitamin D and Melanoma, Better Prognoses?

First snow before Halloween, last snow after Mother’s Day, life in Buffalo. This doesn’t happen every year, but the point is well taken. Lake-effect snow blankets the Nickel City in sheets and can last for months.

This is great for people trying to stay out of the sun, but for those who are prone to a deficiency of vitamin D, it can be a very real health issue. Sunshine exposure is one way that humans get vitamin D. I have been deficient in vitamin D at times and have had to take supplements and, no, I have never used this as a reason to lay under a tanning lamp.

Vitamin D and melanoma treatment

Lack of sun exposure and it’s possible correlation to low levels of vitamin D, has often been a focus of discussion in the health care community. Now, there are new reasons to discuss vitamin D and skincare related issues. According to recent research, there is a strong correlation between vitamin D levels and good prognoses for patients presenting melanoma.1 This alone is not earth-shattering within the medical community, but the reasons for this correlation are now better understood.

New melanoma studies are promising

According to Julia Newton-Bishop, a professor of dermatology at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, there are molecular factors at work in understanding why melanoma patients with low vitamin D levels don’t fare as well as those with higher levels. Professor Newton-Bishop and her team looked at what happens when cells lack a protein known as vitamin D receptor (VDR).1

According to the study, “human tumors grew more rapidly when their VDR gene expression was low.” Additionally, more aggressive cancer tumors showed a lower expression in genes that enhance positive immune activity that fight cancer cells.1

Reducing the spread of melanoma

Low VDR in cancerous tumors also corresponded to higher expression of genes that promoted the spread and growth of cancer. When the researchers dug further, they found that one gene cluster called WNT/Beta-catenin, was responsible for signaling the pathways that promote tumor growth. In laboratory experiments on mice, they found that they could reduce the activity of the WNT/Beta pathway by raising the VDR expression on the tumor cells. This type of molecular manipulation reduced the chances of the melanoma spreading to the animal’s lungs in the study.1

Insights for better treatments

The upshot of this study is that these findings reveal potential ways of using vitamin D to reduce harmful WNT/Beta-catenine activity and thus supporting the patient’s own immune system in fighting cancer. Professor Newton-Bishop is quick to point out that vitamin D won’t treat cancer on its own, but these insights can help patients who are being treated with immunotherapy, which uses the patient’s own immune system to attack cancer cells.1

Encouraging news for fighting melanoma

This is good news. Research continues to help the medical community understand how melanoma cancer cells spread in the body and how to fight it by reducing the activity of the WNT/Beta-catenine pathway. Continued research on how vitamin D works with VDR shows promise for treating patients in immunotherapy.

This will not make me want to lay out in the sun and tan as there are other effective ways to get this important vitamin (specifically through my diet), but it does encourage me as it seems that we are making headway in treating this monster of a disease.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. This Vitamin D Mechanism Helps Combat Melanoma. South Florida Reporter.