You exercise, you eat well, and feel lucky that you seem fitter and healthier than many of your contemporaries. Then a routine blood test shows an abnormally high white blood cell count. After more tests you get a diagnosis of CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia). CLL is a slow-growing form of blood cancer often picked up on a routine blood test in apparently healthy individuals.
Usually, the earlier you find a cancer the sooner you treat it the better the outcome. But current practice is not to treat CLL at the early stages but wait until symptoms develop before offering chemotherapy. This is because clinical studies have found no advantage in early treatment. But this watch-and-wait approach can be hard for patients to handle and many diagnosed with the early stages of CLL feel powerless because there seems to be nothing they can do to help themselves.
Now a new study from the Mayo Clinic provides hope that there is something very important that such patients can do to help prevent progression – they can make sure that their blood levels of vitamin D are high. Researchers found a significant difference in cancer progression and death from CLL in patients with sufficient vitamin D in their blood compared to those who did not. They also found that the higher the starting vitamin D level a patient had, the longer the survival, whereas decreasing blood levels, as is common at northerly latitudes during the winter months, predicted shorter intervals between diagnosis and progression of leukemia.
If you have been diagnosed with CLL and are in the wait-and-see patient category, work with a knowledgeable physician or health care practitioner who will test your blood for 25-hydroxy D – the storage form of vitamin D in blood and a reliable indicator of vitamin D status – and make sure you take enough vitamin D to keep you in the cancer protective range.
Click here to watch a video made by one of the Mayo Clinic researchers involved in this research: www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOOFljuXtgI
Reference:Vitamin D insufficiency and prognosis in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).Shanafelt TD et al. Blood. 2010 Nov 3. [Epub ahead of print]