Researchers at Northwestern University studied a group of 275 European-American men and 273 African-American men between the ages of 40 and 79. They found that European-American men with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 3.66 times more likely to develop an aggressive form of prostate cancer.
Additionally, African-American men of the same group were 4.89 times more likely to be at risk.
At the lowest measured levels of vitamin D, African-American men were 4.22 times more likely to have a stage T2b tumor— when cancer can be felt or seen with scanning, but is isolated in the prostate. Comparatively, European-American men with the lowest vitamin D levels were 2.42 times more likely to have this kind of tumor.
Overall, the European-American men in the study had higher levels of vitamin D in their blood than the African-American men.
The body’s main source of vitamin D is from the sun, and absorption can be affected by skin color. Researchers said this may explain the increased risk of being diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer for African-American men.
Vitamin D is also known to affect development of benign and malignant prostate cells.
“Vitamin D deficiency seems to be important for general wellness and may be involved in the formation or progression of several human cancers. It would be wise to be screened for vitamin D deficiency and treated,” said study author Dr. Adam B. Murphy, an assistant professor in the department of urology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois.