The standard message for patients with vitamin D deficiency is that everyone can take vitamin D unless they have a granulomatous condition (for example tuberculosis or sarcoidosis), or a lymphoma.
The exact details on the why and why not this vitamin D optimization of patients with these diseases is not discussed in detail in the medical literature.
Now a new study has come out that shows that vitamin D actually appears to HELP patients with two specific types of lymphoma.
In a significant paper published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology that was just published online, Matthew Drake, MD and his colleagues from the Mayo Clinic and 2 other schools tested the theory that vitamin D levels might be predictive of "event free survival" (EFS), and "overall survival" (OS) in non-Hodgkin's lymphomas (NHL). An "event" would be getting so sick the patient would need intervention most likely in a hospital. Otherwise, these terms are self-explanatory.
In the study they looked at over 900 newly diagnosed patients with NHL. 44% of the patients had an insufficient vitamin D level- that was less than 25 ng/ml, measured within 120 days of their diagnosis. The average patient was followed for almost 3 years, some longer and others shorter.
After adjusting for other factors and treatment, the vitamin D insufficient patients who had defuse large B-cell lymphoma had a 41% lower chance of having event free survival. In addition, this group had a 50% lower likelihood of overall survival in the time they were followed.
Similarly patients with T cell lymphomas also had a significantly shorter event free survival time and a significantly shorter overall survival.
The authors went on to state that it was not clear if normalizing the vitamin D levels in these patients would improve outcome and suggest that more studies of this sort need to be done to find that out.
In my own practice of medicine if I see a patient with one of these types of lymphomas now, I will certainly optimize their vitamin D levels as soon as I start working with them.
The authors were quoted as saying "At this time, there is no definitive evidence for a causative relationship between lower vitamin D levels and poorer outcomes in lymphoma, and our study did not answer the question of whether normalizing vitamin D levels in these patients improves outcome."
This is just one more example where higher vitamin D levels were associated with patients doing better. I look forward to more and more of these studies as vitamin D is not on the researchers map!
Do you have friends or family with one of these types of lymphoma? Have they had their vitamin D levels checked? Let me know what you are doing to help spread the word about vitamin D.