"This finding may be particularly relevant for this kind of leukemia because although we often identify it at an early stage, the standard approach is to wait until symptoms develop before treating patients with chemotherapy," Dr. Shanafelt says. "This watch and wait approach is difficult for patients because they feel there is nothing they can do to help themselves."
"It appears vitamin D levels may be a modifiable risk factor for leukemia progression. It is simple for patients to have their vitamin D levels checked by their physicians with a blood test," he says. "And if they are deficient, vitamin D supplements are widely available and have minimal side effects."
While the researchers have not yet determined if vitamin D replacement in patients with initially low levels will reverse the more rapid progression associated with insufficiency, they are planning a study to explore that hypothesis.
This research adds to the growing body of evidence that vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for development and/or progression of a number of cancers, the researchers say. Studies have suggested that low blood vitamin D levels may be associated with increased incidence of colorectal, breast and other solid cancers. Other studies have suggested that low vitamin D levels at diagnosis may be associated with poorer outcomes in colorectal, breast, melanoma and lung cancers, as well as lymphoma.
Replacing vitamin D in some patients has proven to be beneficial, the researchers say. For example, they cite a placebo-controlled clinical trial that found women who increased their vitamin D intake reduced their risk of cancer development.
Vitamin D insufficiency, in general, is widespread, Dr. Shanafelt says. "Between one-fourth and one-half of patients seen in routine clinical practice have vitamin D levels below the optimal range, and it is estimated that up
|Contact: Nicole Engler|