Q. Before I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I was exhausted most of the time. My doctor tested the level of vitamin D in my blood after my diagnosis. It was at 12, well below the minimum!
I just read that vitamin D might reduce the risk of developing certain cancers and that people with adequate levels of this vitamin have better survival stats. How much should I be getting? Is it better to get your vitamin D from the sun or from a pill?
Evidence is growing that adequate vitamin D levels reduce the risk of developing many types of cancer (Dermato-Endocrinology, April/May/ June 2012). Women with higher vitamin D levels had better survival after diagnosis with breast cancer (Carcinogenesis online, May 23, 2012).
A large study showed higher vitamin D levels were associated with a lower likelihood of lethal prostate cancer (Journal of the National Cancer Institute, May 2, 2012). One protocol suggested benefit for men with prostate cancer who took 4,000 IU of vitamin D-3 daily (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism online, Apr. 16, 2012). This dose is high, so please check with your doctor.
Fatigue is a classic sign of vitamin D deficiency, as are muscle pain and weakness. Some experts think that several minutes of sun exposure a few times a week is better than oral supplements, but this is controversial.
Q. What is the name of the product that makes eyelashes grow longer? Mine are short and sparse.
Latisse (bimatoprost) is applied to the upper eyelid to increase eyelash growth. Be prepared for a big bill, though, since this prescription product can cost more than $100 a month.
Aspirin and cancer
Q. I’ve been using aspirin to help prevent sunburn for years. I just read that aspirin can reduce the incidence of skin cancer. Is there a connection?
A decade ago, a German study showed that people who took 250 mg of aspirin prior to sun exposure were less likely to burn (Photochemistry and Photobiology, October 2001).
This year, Danish researchers reported on a case-control study showing that people who took aspirin were less likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma (Cancer online, May 29, 2012).
Aspirin can have serious side effects, however. One reader reported: ”I had internal bleeding from a prescribed aspirin regimen. I had no problems for five years taking 81 mg per day. When the bleeding started, I initially thought nothing was wrong. Finally, I could barely move and was taken to the emergency department. My hemoglobin was 7.1, while normal is 11 to 15. I spent a week in the ICU and received several blood transfusions for a bleed in my upper GI tract.”
Taking 100 to 250 mg of vitamin C may help protect the digestive tract from aspirin-induced irritation (Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, February 2004; Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, November 2006, Suppl. 5). Anyone planning to take aspirin on a regular basis should discuss this with a physician.
King Features Syndicate
Write to Joe and Terry Graedon via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.