Vitamin D and Lymphoma

By Rebecca Elstrom, MD

Vitamin D has recently received an enormous amount of attention as the realization that many Americans are deficient in vitamin D intersects with new data regarding the possible role vitamin D may play in regulation of cancer development. A frequent question from my patients has become, “Should I be taking vitamin D?”

Last year, a group of researchers from the Mayo Clinic reported that patients with lymphoma who are vitamin D deficient had a poorer chance of surviving their disease. This was a correlative study; it did not explore whether vitamin D deficiency actually caused the patients to respond more poorly to therapy. While it is possible that vitamin D played a causative role, it is equally feasible that vitamin D deficiency was a marker for patients who were sicker for other reasons, and therefore less likely to tolerate or to respond well to treatment. Further studies will be necessary to clarify whether vitamin D deficiency caused patients to do worse, and therefore whether supplementing vitamin D in patients who are deficient will lead to better outcomes.

Until these further studies are done, what should we do? There is no indication that having higher than normal vitamin D levels will be better than having normal levels; therefore, there is not a rationale for patients with normal levels to supplement vitamin D. However, for patients who are vitamin D deficient, it seems reasonable to supplement it to normal levels, whether it will directly impact lymphoma treatment results or not. A related question is whether every patient with lymphoma should be screened for vitamin D deficiency. Until the direct impact on lymphoma outcome is clear, I cannot recommend mass screening, but discussion between patient and provider is appropriate regarding this intriguing finding.

LLS Patient Education Program: Know Your Rights

The Lymphoma and Leukemia Society (LLS) is presenting a patient education program on Saturday May 14th to help patients and caregivers to overcome obstacles in their quest for healthcare in the wake of pending health care reform.  Click here to see the event flyer: LLS flyer or email inez.lendez@lls.org to RSVP. Click here to read about the program on the LLS website.