With over 100 types of cancer it is difficult to simplify what cancer is; but for this explanation, and using a tumour growth as an example, there two types of cells – undifferentiated and differentiated.
An undifferentiated cell is like a foetal cell in the way that it can rapidly divide. Just like a fertilized human egg the cells begin to rapidly divide and multiply into a large mass. A fertilized human egg at some point begins to take human form because the cells become differentiated (normal); meaning the mass of cells become something else. Although all the cells are identical and came from the same place, some will differentiate into a thumb, another a toe, one a lung and so on.
A normal cell is supposed to die after so many divisions (called programmed cell death or apoptosis). A cancerous cell may have this process hindered so it continues to divide and grow.
When the DNA in a cell is damaged it can become cancerous. A cancer cell is an undifferentiated (abnormal) cell that continues to divide and grow into a mass but never becomes differentiated. When it gets big enough it will require its own blood supply and will develop blood vessels to ‘tap’ into existing blood supply. This is called angiogenesis.
Metastasis is when parts of these undifferentiated cells break off the original tumor and transport themselves to other parts of the body by entering the new blood vessel and distributing themselves through the blood system and lymph nodes.
Cancer vs Vitamin D
There has been an accumulation of research that shows promising indication of the prevention and even the cure for some types of cancers using vitamin D.
Because our body’s cells have vitamin D receptors (VDR’s), the studies are showing that vitamin D can actually play a role in cell proliferation (rapid division of the cells) and cell differentiation.
Vitamin D has even shown to repair DNA.
Laboratory tests confirm that vitamin D does inhibit the growth of the new blood vessels. Vitamin D experimentation on the undifferentiated (abnormal) cells show findings where they were switched into differentiated (normal) cells.
Vitamin D cancer prevention
There are several different studies regarding vitamin D and the prevention of cancer.
First prompted by research results that found one particular geographic area had higher incidents of cancer related deaths when compared with the national average – and another area that had lower rates of deaths from a variety of cancers.
The main variable was the amount of sunlight available in each area. The persons who lived in the southern region had lower incidents of cancer related deaths. Because sunlight (UVB) rays is necessary for the production of vitamin D3 – vitamin D was believed to be the reason for the differences in cancer rates.
Another trial that was initially designed to study the effects of vitamin D on women’s bone health produced an unexpected result. Not only did the women who took the vitamin D supplement show lower incidence of bone fractures, they also had a 60% lower incidence of common cancers.
Vitamin D cancer treatment
The studies into the effectiveness of vitamin D and cancer treatments continue and are producing evidence that there is a link between vitamin D and cancer prevention. Most notably for breast cancer, colin cancer, and skin cancer.
Other clinical trials are studying the link between vitamin D cancer prevention for bladder, ovarian, rectal and prostate cancers.