Monitoring Vitamin D Levels May Benefit Childhood Cancer Survivors

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Low levels of vitamin D may be impacting survivors of childhood cancer and contributing to their long-term health issues following cancer treatment, say researchers at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in new research published in the International Journal of Cancer Therapy and Oncology.

“Identifying vitamin D levels in childhood cancer survivors is critically important, because optimizing these levels may help us to prevent secondary cancers and chronic disease,” says Denise Rokitka, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatric Oncology and Director of the Long-Term Follow-up Clinic at Roswell Park.

Denise Rokitka, MD, MPH
Denise Rokitka, MD, MPH, Director, Long Term Follow Up Clinic

For this National Cancer Institute-supported study, Dr. Rokitka and colleagues performed a cross-sectional medical chart review of 139 patients seen in the Long-Term Pediatric Follow-Up Clinic at Roswell Park from 2009 to 2014 to determine the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among adult survivors of childhood cancers. They found that 34% of patients were vitamin-deficient, and 39% had insufficient levels of the nutrient. While Vitamin D levels among those who reported using supplements were significantly higher than those who did not use supplements, 68.3% of this subgroup of patients had insufficient levels. Insufficient or deficient vitamin D levels were highest among survivors who were over age 30 and those who were overweight.

“The long-term effects of therapy and quality of life among adult survivors of childhood cancers have become an area of intense investigation,” adds Dr. Rokitka. “My hope is that future studies will help clarify Vitamin D’s role in prevention and health maintenance for these survivors and determine the extent to which vitamin D supplements can improve outcomes.”

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