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May 01, 2014 10:21 AM EDT

Low Vitamin D Levels Linked To Prostate Cancer

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Low levels of vitamin D in men may be linked to prostate cancer, according to a recent study HealthDay reported.

Researchers from northwestern University in Illinois found that people with low vitamin D levels were more likely to test positive for cancer after a prostate biopsy. This suggests that vitamin D may play an important role in how the cancer starts and spread.

"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," Dr. Adam Murphy, study author and an assistant professor of urology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, told Fox News.

For the study, researchers examined a group of 275 European-American men and 273 African-American men between the ages of 40 and 79.

Nearly 44 percent of the men who tested positive for cancer and 38 percent of those who tested negative had low vitamin D levels, HealthDay reported.

Researchers said that among the men who tested positive for cancer after their biopsies, those who had very low levels of vitamin D had a greater risk of developing more advanced and aggressive cancers than those with normal levels.

Researchers said the connection between vitamin D and cancer seemed to be stronger in black men. African-American men with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 4.89 more likely to develop an aggressive form of prostate cancer while white men with low levels of vitamin D were 3.66 times more likely.

"It seems to regulate normal differentiation of cells as they change from stem cells to adult cells. And it regulates the growth rate of normal cells and cancer cells," Murphy said of vitamin D levels, according to HealthDay.

The findings were recently published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

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