Possible protective effects of vitamin D "warrant more study"

In collaboration with the Press Association

Research claiming that vitamin D tablets may halve the risk of pancreatic cancer needs to be corroborated by further studies, Cancer Research UK has said.

The US research paper looked at data from two large, long-term studies, the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up study, which together followed over 120,000 people.

It found that people who reported that they had taken the US recommended daily amount of vitamin D over the study period, had nearly half the likelihood of going on to develop pancreatic cancer. Lead researcher, Dr Halcyon Skinner of Northwestern University, Illinois, said: "Our results point to a possible role for Vitamin D in the prevention and possible reduction in mortality of pancreatic cancer.

"Since no other environmental or dietary factor showed this risk relationship, more study of Vitamin D's role is warranted."

Cancer Research UK noted that the study was based on questionnaires requiring people to recall what they had eaten previously, which are not as reliable as food diary-based studies. Nor did the study account for normal, dietary sources of vitamin D.

Henry Scowcroft, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "The results of this study don't mean that people should take vitamin D tablets to ward off pancreatic cancer, especially as vitamin D can be harmful in large quantities.

"As the authors themselves point out, this is the very first study to find any association between the disease and vitamin D intake.

"So this result needs to be repeated in other large studies, and scientists need to show exactly how vitamin D might prevent pancreatic cancer before we could issue any specific lifestyle advice."

Find out more about pancreatic cancer