Low levels of vitamin D in lymphoma patients are associated with cancer progression and even death, according to findings from a Mayo Clinic and University of Iowa study reported by ScienceDaily.

“These are some of the strongest findings yet between vitamin D and cancer outcome,” said lead investigator, Matthew Drake, MD, PhD, an endocrinologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

Researchers studied 374 newly diagnosed cancer patients suffering from diffuse large B-cells lymphoma (a fast-growing, aggressive form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma) and found half had vitamin D deficiency. Patients deficient in vitamin D had a greater risk of cancer progression and were more likely to die than patients with optimal vitamin D levels.

“The exact roles that vitamin D might play in the initiation or progression of cancer is unknown, but we do know that the vitamin plays a role in regulation of cell growth and death, among other processes important in limiting cancer,” Drake said.

These findings support the growing connection between vitamin D and cancer risks and outcomes as well as reinforce other field research about the vitamin's overall health benefits, Drake added.

Vitamin D is obtained from sunlight and converted into its active form by the skin. It is also found in food (naturally or fortified as in milk) and is available in supplement form.

Learn more about vitamin D here.