Nutritional supplements like Vitamin D3 have many health benefits and are being widely used by cancer patients and those at-genetic-risk of cancer. But, is it safe to take Vitamin D3 supplements for all types of cancer and without considering any ongoing treatments and other lifestyle conditions? A common belief but only a myth is that anything natural can only benefit me or do no harm. As one example, the use of grapefruit with certain medications is not recommended. Another example, the use of spinach with some blood thinning medications can cause adverse interactions and should be avoided. For cancer, nutrition which includes the food and natural supplements has been shown to influence outcomes. Hence a frequently asked question by cancer patients to dieticians and doctors is “What Should I eat and What Should I Avoid?”.
Taking nutritional Vitamin D3 supplements can benefit cancer patients with Merkel Cell Carcinoma on Thalidomide treatment. But avoid Vitamin D3 supplements if on Ifosfamide treatment for Testicular Germ Cell Tumors. Similarly, taking nutritional supplement Vitamin D3 can benefit healthy individuals who are at genetic risk of cancer due to mutation of gene CDK4. But avoid taking nutritional supplement Vitamin D3 when at genetic risk of cancer due to mutation of gene TERT.
The takeaway being – your individual context will influence your decision if nutritional supplement Vitamin D3 is safe or not. And also that this decision needs to be constantly revisited as conditions change. Conditions like cancer type, current ongoing treatments and supplements, age, gender, weight, height, lifestyle and any genetic mutations identified matter. So a legitimate question for you to ask for any recommendation of food and natural supplement is how it is related to your individual context.
Nutritional supplements – vitamins, herbs, minerals, probiotics, and other specialty categories are increasing. Supplements are high concentrations of active ingredients which are also found in different foods. The difference being foods contain more than one active ingredient at lower diffused concentrations. Remember that each of these ingredients has its own science and biological mechanism at molecular level – hence choose the right combination of supplements like Vitamin D3 based on individual context and conditions.
So the question is should you take the supplement Vitamin D3? Should you take it when at genetic risk of cancer for mutation of gene TERT? Should you take it when at genetic risk of cancer for mutation of gene CDK4? Should you take it when diagnosed with Testicular Germ Cell Tumors? Should you take Vitamin D3 supplement when diagnosed with Merkel Cell Carcinoma? Should you take it when on Ifosfamide treatment? Should you continue taking Vitamin D3 supplement if you change your treatment from Ifosfamide to Thalidomide? So a general explanation like – it is natural or it increases immunity may not be acceptable and sufficient for choosing Vitamin D3.
Cancer remains an unsolved problem statement. The improved availability of personalized treatments and monitoring of cancer via blood and saliva have been significant factors to improve outcomes. The earlier the intervention – the better the influence on outcome. Genetic testing has the potential to assess cancer risk and susceptibility early. But besides regular monitoring in most cases there are no therapeutic intervention options available. After diagnosis with cancer such as Testicular Germ Cell Tumors or Merkel Cell Carcinoma, the treatments get personalized to tumor genomics and factors like staging of disease, age and gender. During cancer remission (after treatment cycle is complete) – monitoring is used for assessment of any relapse and accordingly decide next steps. A large majority of cancer patients and those at-risk do take nutritional supplements like Vitamin D3.
So the question is that are all genetic mutation risks and types of cancers to be considered as one when deciding the use of Vitamin D3? Are the biochemical pathway implications of genetic risk for cancer due to mutation of gene TERT the same as due to mutation of gene CDK4? Are the implications of Testicular Germ Cell Tumors same as Merkel Cell Carcinoma? Is it one and the same if you are on treatment with Ifosfamide or on Thalidomide?
Vitamin D3 – A Nutritional Supplement
Vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol or sunshine vitamin, is a fat-soluble vitamin usually produced in the skin when exposed to sun. It is obtained from a variety of food sources and is also available in the form of dietary supplements. It is known to have many health benefits including the following :
- May help strengthen bones by absorbing calcium and phosphorus, which helps keep the bones strong (Paul Lips and Natasja M van Schoor, Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab., 2011)
- May promote heart health (Suzanne E Judd and Vin Tangpricha, Am J Med Sci., 2009)
- May improve mood (Sue Penckofer et al, Issues Ment Health Nurs., 2010)
- May promote healthy immune system (Pieter-Jan Martens et al, Nutrients. 2020)
- May aid in weight loss (Caitlin Mason et al, Am J Clin Nutr., 2014)
However, intake of high doses of vitamin D3 for long periods may be harmful. Following are some of the side-effects of excess intake of Vitamin D3.
- Increased blood calcium levels
- Kidney failure
- Stomach pain
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Lack of appetite
Vitamin D3 is an active ingredient found in various food items. Eggs, Fatty fishes, Fish liver oils and Buttermilk contain Vitamin D3 at different concentration levels along with other active ingredients. The molecular pathways which are regulated by Vitamin D3 include Oxidative Stress, Hypoxia, MYC Signaling, Stem Cell Signaling and DNA Repair. These cellular pathways directly or indirectly regulate specific cancer molecular endpoints like growth, spread and death. Because of this biological regulation – for cancer nutrition, the right choice of supplements like Vitamin D3 individually or in combination is an important decision to be made. When making decisions on the use of supplement Vitamin D3 for cancer – do consider all these factors and explanations. Because just as true for cancer treatments – Vitamin D3 use cannot be a one-size-fits-all decision for all types of cancers.
Choosing Vitamin D3 Supplements for Your Cancer
The reason there is no easy way to answer the question “When should I avoid Vitamin D3 for Cancer” is because “It Depends!”. Just like the same treatment does not work for every cancer patient, based on your individual context the Vitamin D3 may be harmful or safe. Along with which cancer and associated genetics – the ongoing treatments, supplements, lifestyle habits, BMI and allergies are all factors deciding if Vitamin D3 should be avoided or not and why.
1. Will Vitamin D3 Supplements benefit Cancer Patients with Testicular Germ Cell Tumors undergoing Ifosfamide treatment?
Testicular Germ Cell Tumors is characterized and driven by specific genetic mutations like KIT and KRAS leading to biochemical pathway changes in Oxidative Stress, DNA Repair, PI3K-AKT-MTOR Signaling, RAS-RAF Signaling and MAPK Signaling. A cancer treatment like Ifosfamide works through a specific pathway mechanism of action. The goal is to have a good overlap between the treatment and cancer driving pathways for a personalized approach which is effective. In such a condition any food or nutritional supplement which has a contrary effect to the treatment or reduces the overlap should be avoided. As an example, Vitamin D3 should be avoided for Testicular Germ Cell Tumors along with treatment Ifosfamide. Vitamin D3 impacts pathways/processes like Oxidative Stress and DNA Repair which either promote drivers of the disease and/or nullify the treatment effect. Additionally, Vitamin D3 supplements have CYP3A4 interactions with Ifosfamide treatment, and hence should be avoided by patients undergoing this treatment. (Pius S Fasinu et al, Front Oncol., 2019; Xuan Qin et al, Acta Pharm Sin B., 2019) Some of the factors which should be considered when choosing nutrition are type of cancer, treatments and supplements being taken currently (if any), age, gender, BMI, lifestyle and any genetic mutation information (if available).
2. Will Vitamin D3 Supplements benefit Cancer Patients with Merkel Cell Carcinoma undergoing Thalidomide Treatment?
Merkel Cell Carcinoma is characterized and driven by specific genetic mutations like TP53 and RB1 leading to biochemical pathway changes in Hypoxia, P53 Signaling, RAS-RAF Signaling, PI3K-AKT-MTOR Signaling and Cell Cycle. A cancer treatment like Thalidomide works through specific pathway mechanisms. The goal is to have a good overlap between the treatment and cancer driving pathways for a personalized approach. In such a condition any food or nutritional supplement which has a compatible effect to the treatment or reduces the overlap should be considered. As an example, Vitamin D3 supplements should be considered for Merkel Cell Carcinoma along with treatment Thalidomide. Vitamin D3 supplement impacts pathways/processes like Hypoxia and P53 Signaling which either obstruct drivers of Merkel Cell Carcinoma and/or improve Thalidomide treatment effect.
Foods to Eat After Cancer Diagnosis!
No two cancers are the same. Go beyond the common nutrition guidelines for everyone and make personalized decisions about food and supplements with confidence.
3. Are Vitamin D3 Supplements Safe for Healthy Individuals with TERT Mutation Associated Genetic Risk?
Different companies offer panels of genes to be tested for assessing genetic risk to different cancers. These panels cover genes associated with cancers of the breast, ovary, uterus, prostate, and gastrointestinal system and others. Genetic testing of these genes may confirm a diagnosis and help guide treatment and management decisions. Identification of a disease-causing variant may also guide testing and diagnosis of at-risk relatives. TERT is one of the genes generally available in panels for cancer risk testing.
TERT mutation causes biochemical pathways/processes like MYC Signaling, TGFB Signaling, Nucleotide metabolism, Stem Cell Signaling and Hypoxia to get impacted. These pathways are direct or indirect drivers of cancer molecular endpoints. Vitamin D3 should be avoided when the genetic panel identifies mutation of TERT for Hematological Cancer. Vitamin D3 impacts pathways/processes like MYC Signaling and TGFB Signaling and creates adverse effects with TERT and related conditions.
4. Are Vitamin D3 Supplements Safe for Healthy Individuals with CDK4 Mutation Associated Genetic Risk?
CDK4 is one of the genes available in panels for cancer risk testing. CDK4 mutation causes biochemical pathways/processes like Stem Cell Signaling, MAPK Signaling, Cell Cycle, Cell Cycle Checkpoints and DNA Repair to get impacted. These pathways are direct or indirect drivers of cancer molecular endpoints. Consider taking Vitamin D3 supplements when the genetic panel identifies mutation in CDK4 for Skin Cancer. Vitamin D3 impacts pathways/processes like Stem Cell Signaling and MAPK Signaling and creates a supportive effect in those with CDK4 mutation and related conditions.
* Other Factors are also included like BMI, Treatments, Lifestyle Habits
The two most important things to remember are that cancer treatments and nutrition are never the same for everyone. Nutrition, which includes food and nutritional supplements like Vitamin D3, is an effective tool which can be controlled by you, while facing cancer.
What food you eat and which supplements you take is a decision you make. Your decision should include consideration of the cancer gene mutations, which cancer, ongoing treatments and supplements, any allergies, lifestyle information, weight, height and habits.
The nutrition planning for cancer from addon is not based on internet searches. It automates the decision making for you based on molecular science implemented by our scientists and software engineers. Irrespective of whether you care to understand the underlying biochemical molecular pathways or not - for nutrition planning for cancer that understanding is needed.
Get started NOW with your nutrition planning by answering questions on the name of cancer, genetic mutations, ongoing treatments and supplements, any allergies, habits, lifestyle, age group and gender.
Personalized Nutrition for Cancer!
Cancer changes with time. Customize and modify your nutrition based on cancer indication, treatments, lifestyle, food preferences, allergies and other factors.
Cancer patients often have to deal with different chemotherapy side effects which affect their quality of life and look out for alternative therapies for cancer. Taking the right nutrition and supplements based on scientific considerations (avoiding guesswork and random selection) is the best natural remedy for cancer and treatment related side-effects.