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Cancer Fighter: Sunshine and Vitamin D

Al Sears, MD, CNS – …[S]cientists at South Dakota State University discovered that vitamin D blocks a biochemical mechanism that enables cancer cells to become drug-resistant.

We all know that vitamin D is an indispensable nutrient for your health.

Almost all tissues in your body contain receptors for vitamin D. This allows the nutrient to help all areas of your health.

I recommend vitamin D for my patients. The benefits include better heart health, increased immune function, better brain performance and a reduced risk of depression, stronger bones and a reduced risk of diabetes.

And, the very latest research shows that this simple “sunshine” vitamin is also one of the most powerful cancer fighters around.

Studies show vitamin D can:1,2,3,4

• Convert tumor cells into normal cells
• Prevent cancer cells from multiplying into tumors
• Regulate the immune response to cancer
• Help prevent certain cancer and spreading
• Target the genes responsible for cancer-cell proliferation
• Inhibit the formation of new blood vessels that feed tumors

Researchers at Creighton University School of Medicine in Nebraska found that taking high doses of vitamin D can prevent at least 17 types of cancer by up to 77%. These include prostate, bladder, uterine, pancreatic, esophageal and stomach cancers.5

And most recently, scientists at South Dakota State University discovered that vitamin D blocks a biochemical mechanism that enables cancer cells to become drug-resistant.

This is hugely important, because around 90% of failures in chemotherapy treatments are the result of tumors developing resistance to anticancer drugs.

The researchers found vitamin D inhibits a “transporter protein” called multidrug resistance-associated protein 1 (MRP1). This sits on the cell wall and ejects cancer drugs from the cell. Vitamin D hones in on cancer cells with too much MRP1 and kills them.

Also earlier this year, researchers from Michigan State University found that taking vitamin D supplements can prolong the lives of cancer patients.

The researchers pulled together data from 10 randomized controlled trials involving almost 80,000 people, and compared people who took vitamin D supplements with those taking a placebo.6

Their analysis revealed that taking vitamin D supplements lowered the risk of dying from cancer by 13% in people who had been diagnosed with the disease.

Meanwhile, in another recent study, researchers at the Hospital Universitario 12 de Octubre in Madrid, Spain, looked at 2,280 prostate cancer patients. They found that patients who took vitamin D supplements were 38% less likely to die of the disease.7

Today’s indoor lifestyles — along with mainstream medicine’s demonizing approach to sunshine — means that most people don’t get nearly enough vitamin D.

The government recommends just 600 international units (IU) per day. That’s woefully short of what your body needs.

Of course, supplementing is the easiest way to ensure you’re getting enough D. But be sure that the supplement is called cholecalciferol. That’s the same bioactive D3 your body produces. Avoid the synthetic form of vitamin D2 found in most multivitamins. It’s weaker and less absorbable.

And I’ve written to you before about how to increase your vitamin D through sun exposure and by eating more fatty fish like herring, salmon and tuna as well as beef liver, egg yolks and milk.

But here’s a food rich in vitamin D that you may not know about…

I’m talking about mushrooms. You already know that your skin makes vitamin D in response to sunlight shining on it. But what you may not know is that mushrooms, even after they’re picked, can do the same trick.

In fact, a few years ago I read the book Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World by Paul Stamets. He knows so much about mushrooms and health that he’s an advisor of integrative medicine at the University of Arizona Medical School.

I already knew mushrooms are the only vegetable with vitamin D. But Stamets did a study where he picked shiitake mushrooms that had been grown indoors and placed them gills-up in the sunlight for six hours. Their vitamin D content shot up from around 110 IU of vitamin D per 100 grams to a pretty remarkable 46,000 IU.8

That means all you have to do is eat around 10 grams of sun-dried mushrooms to get the 5,000 IU a day I recommend. For cancer prevention, try to get at least 10,000 IU.

Make Vitamin D Sun-Dried Mushrooms Easily at Home

Drying and storing the mushrooms is easy to do.

1. First, get some fresh organic shiitake mushrooms (you can also try maitake, shimeji, or oyster mushrooms if you like) from a local produce stand.

2. Then spread the mushrooms out in the sun on parchment paper or flat pieces of wood (not aluminum trays) during the sunniest part of the day.

3. Cover the mushrooms at sunset to stop them from getting dew on them the next morning.

4. Repeat the drying the next day.

5. When they’re kind of crispy and thoroughly dry, store them in a large glass container.

6. Add a spoonful of rice to keep the mushrooms dry, and seal it up.

The mushrooms should be good for at least a year. Then you can eat a few mushrooms to get a good start on the vitamin D you’ll need for the day.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD


1. Johnson CS, et al. “Vitamin D-related therapies in prostate cancer.” Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2002;21(2):147-58.
2. Maruyama R, et al. “Comparative genome analysis identifies the vitamin D receptor gene as a direct target of p53-mediated transcriptional activation.” Cancer Res. 2006;66(9):4574-4583.
3. Aranow C. “Vitamin D and the immune system.” J Investig Med. 2011;59(6):881–886.
4. Shokravi MT, et al. “Vitamin D inhibits angiogenesis in transgenic murine retinoblastoma.” Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1995;36(1):83-87.
5. Lappe JM, et al. “Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(6):1586-1591
6. Samji V, et al. “Role of vitamin D supplementation for primary prevention of cancer: Meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” J Clin Oncol. 2019:37(15):1534-1534.
7. de Velasco G, et al. “Combination of statin/vitamin D and metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC): A post-hoc analysis of two randomized clinical trials.” J Clin Oncol. 2019;37(15):6617-6617.
8. Stamets, P. “6 ways mushrooms can save the world.” Ted Talk on Myceluim Fungus. ted.com. Retrieved Aug 29, 2014.

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For more articles by Al Sears, MD click here.

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