How Vitamin D May Reduce Your Risk of Colon Cancer

Here’s one more reason to get your daily dose of Vitamin D for better health.


  • Vitamin D has been linked to reducing your risk of colorectal (or colon) cancer, according to new research in the journal Gastroenterology.
  • Foods high in vitamin D include salmon, cheese, fortified dairy products, beef liver, and egg yolks.
  • While simply stocking up on these foods may not be enough to prevent the cancer completely, other ways to lower your risk include getting regular exercise, not smoking, avoiding excess alcohol consumption, eating less processed meat, and getting screened early.

When it comes to health benefits, vitamin D is a standout—it’s been linked to lower incidence of depression and osteoporosis, most notably—and now a study in the journal Gastroenterology suggests reduced risk of colorectal (or colon) cancer might be added to the list.

Researchers looked at data from nearly 95,000 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study II, a long-term study focused on chronic disease prevention that collects information on nutrition and other health factors. Over a 24-year timespan, those who ate foods with higher amounts of vitamin D had a 50 percent lower risk of developing colorectal cancer, particularly when they were younger.

“This suggests that vitamin D foods may be important for younger people as a way to prevent colorectal cancer, not just those who are older,” study co-author Kimmie Ng, M.D., director of the Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute told Runner’s World. This includes foods like salmon, cheese, fortified dairy products, beef liver, and egg yolks.

She added that previous research has already showed strong connections to anti-cancer activity for the vitamin, but this link between lower risk for younger people—both men and women—is actually a big deal.

That’s because colorectal cancer rates have been declining in the past couple decades for older people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it’s believed that’s due to better screening. For instance, newer recommendations dropped the age when screening should start, advising people to begin at age 45.

However, the incidence in these cancers for people under 40 is surging, and experts note that these patients tend to be diagnosed at later stages when the cancers are harder to treat. It’s unknown why this is happening, but it’s a major problem, said Ng.

“This concerning increase has been documented since the mid-1990s, which is why we need to find ways to catch colorectal cancer earlier, but also look at ways to prevent this cancer,” she said.

For example, the Colorectal Cancer Alliance estimates that colon cancer could rise by 90 percent in people under age 35 and rectal cancer could climb by about 125 percent in the next 10 years. If that happens, it will become the leading cause of cancer deaths in people aged 20 to 49.

Although simply stocking up on cheese and salmon may not be enough to prevent it completely, the recent study does provide more evidence that it’s worth a shot.

“Over the past few years, vitamin D deficiency has been steadily increasing,” said Ng. “So, trying to address that through dietary choices is worth the effort.”

Other ways to lower your risk of colorectal cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, include getting regular exercise, not smoking, avoiding excess alcohol consumption, eating less processed meat, and, as previously mentioned, getting screened early.

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