Houston, TX—Pharmacists are well aware of the common adverse health effects of vitamin D deficiency.

A study released in conjunction with the 2018 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting in early June discussed an issue beyond increased risk of osteoporosis and other bone disorders, however.

Researchers from the Central Texas Veterans Healthcare System in Temple and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston point out that too little vitamin D dramatically increases the risk of death in older cancer patients with solid tumors.

In fact, they report, vitamin D deficiency increased the risk of death 80% in older patients with solid tumors but not in those with hematologic malignancies. 

To reach those conclusions, the investigators focused on 457 cancer patients referred to MD Anderson Cancer Center for geriatric assessment; 302 had bone-density analysis and 396 had vitamin D levels assessed, as recommended by the National Osteoporosis Foundation Guidelines. 

Bone health disorders were identified  in 77% of the patients tested, while 70% of geriatric cancer patients had vitamin D insufficiency (49%) or deficiency (21%). 

Analysis indicated that Vitamin D deficiency was a risk factor for overall survival (OS) in solid tumors, with a hazard ratio of 1.80 (95% CI = 1.08, 2.99, P = .02). During a maximum follow-up period of 3 years, 153 patients (33%) died. 

“Vitamin D deficiency is common in older cancer patients and is associated with overall survival in older cancer patients with solid tumors. Prospective studies are needed,” authors of the recent study concluded.

For the ASCO study, researchers defined insufficiency as 25-hydroxy-vitamin D [25(OH)D] less than 30 ng/ml and deficiency as levels less than 20 ng/ml. Clinical guidelines recommend that level or even higher, with some suggesting vitamin D levels between 40 ng/ml and 60 ng/ml might be best. 

 « Click here to return to Weekly News Update.